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Associated Churches prepares for local disaster response

– Christians often say they are the hands and feet of Christ – and Associated Churches wants those hands and feet to help when disaster strikes.

Associated Churches, a group of more than 130 churches in Fort Wayne and Allen County, has started a ministry called Associated Churches Active in Disaster. Its mission is to connect the volunteers and resources of member congregations in two ways.

First, Associated Churches Active in Disaster wants to help coordinate congregation responses to local disasters, which officials say they are uniquely able to do because of their connections to so many churches.

The group has a connection to the Allen County Department of Homeland Security and is a member of the Allen County Community Organizations Active in Disaster, which includes the Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way and many other community organizations.

Second, Associated Churches Active in Disaster plans to connect local volunteers to national disasters. The group has developed a relationship with Operation Blessing, which has deployed many volunteers all around the country after such disasters as Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, the tornado in Moore, Okla., and others.

Key to developing the ministry, officials said, will be developing and training Associated Churches Active in Disaster representatives in each member congregation. Those representatives will be the contact person and an educator to help their congregations understand how emergency management works and why coordination is vital.

The group will also develop Associated Churches Active in Disaster responders who will be available for deployment on multidenominational teams to the scenes of local or remote disasters.

While some congregations may have their own mission team to send, Associated Churches Active in Disaster teams will provide opportunities for volunteers whose congregations are unable to assemble complete teams.

An Associated Churches Active in Disaster responder can be anyone who is willing to help with such things as debris removal, basic repairs, construction, spiritual care, administrative support or other functions, officials said.

Those interested should call Associated Churches Active in Disaster Chairman Rev. Dan Layden at 260-579-5555 or Associated Churches Executive Pastor Roger Reece at 260-422-3528.