As the local chapter of the American Red Cross sent a half-dozen trained volunteers and staff to assist relief efforts, a Fort Wayne Christian group that responds to natural disasters urged area residents Monday not to travel to Harvey-hit areas of Texas and Louisiana.
The Rev. Dan Layden, a member of Associated Churches Active in Disaster, said he had three words of advice to those eager to render aid: “Pray, pay and stay.”
“Those people who descend on disaster sites without a coordinated plan ... always get in the way,” he said. “At this time, we're promoting that people be very wary of going down there. We recommend people to stay home.”
Layden said area residents can help by donating to reputable relief agencies, many of which are listed at www.nvoad.org, the website of National Voluntary Organizations Involved in Disaster. The site includes listings for about two dozen groups, including the American Red Cross and denominational disaster outreach agencies, he said.
Monetary donations are more valuable than donations of goods which require transportation, warehousing, and distribution and, if they don't match local needs, may end up in landfills, said Layden, rector of Fort Wayne's St. Alban's Episcopal Church.
“We also urge that people not automatically respond to emails or Facebook postings asking for money – they're often scammers,” he added.
Meanwhile, the northeast Indiana region of the American Red Cross began sending people to help with sheltering, feeding and clothing the thousands of people displaced by Harvey-flattened homes and widespread flooding.
Carole Sheehan, disaster specialist in Fort Wayne, said Clayton Martin and Pete Kos of Bryan, Ohio, left for Texas on Sunday driving a Fort Wayne Emergency Response Vehicle.
The vehicle looks like an ambulance but can deliver prepared food to shelters. Its destination is unclear because of the nature of the still-evolving emergency, she said.
She said Martin and Kos are experienced volunteers. The two have helped in the aftermath of tornadoes and floods and delivered water and testing kits to Flint, Michigan, last year during its lead-contamination crisis.
Other volunteers are Fort Wayne residents John Judd, who left Sunday to work in a Red Cross warehouse in Dallas, and Julia Bauer, who plans to leave today for an assignment in mental health care in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Leslie Blakely, disaster program supervisor for northeast Indiana, will coordinate volunteers in Indianapolis.
Forty Hoosier volunteers are involved in Harvey efforts, according to area Red Cross officials. Area residents can assist people affected by the storm through www.redcross.org or 1-800-REDCROSS. People also can text the word HARVEY at 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Layden said the importance of not traveling is paramount in this disaster because airports have been closed and many interstate highways are flooded and closed in Houston and surrounding areas.
In addition, thousands of people are out of their homes and need places to stay, power outages are widespread and supplies such as food and water may be in short supply because of transportation and storage issues, he said.
In an email to The Journal Gazette, the Rev. Roger Reece, executive pastor of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County, said ACAD will ask faith-based disaster agencies for specific projects and pass information along to member congregations.
Volunteer opportunities would most likely occur during the recovery stage of the disaster, after emergency rescue operations and immediate health and safety issues have been resolved, Reece said.
People can find out about opportunities through the Associated Churches Facebook page or its Twitter account at @AssocChurches.