I’m Too Old To Be a Volunteer

Dozens of chainsaw specialists were part of the more than 200 Lutheran volunteers who responded on Saturday, April 11, 2015, to tornado cleanup in Rochelle, Ill. LCMS Communications/Al Dowbnia

When you see the news stories of people removing debris, sawing tree limbs, and mucking out houses it is easy to think that you don’t have a role to play in disaster response. Perhaps you are young. Maybe you are old or have physical disabilities. Possibly you think that you don’t have any special skills to bring to a disaster team. Thankfully there are nearly endless ways that you can get involved. Take a look at the second page of our Volunteer Intake Form.

LERT Volunteer Form

You will notice that we have the usual tasks one would think of: Clean up Worker, Chain Saw Certified, Construction, Drywall, Mason; but we also have Child Care, Food Service, and even Prayer! The fact is that among the more than 14,000 volunteers we have trained over the years, the vast majority of them don’t feel comfortable using a chainsaw AND THAT’S OK! Here are three ways that people of any age can possibly get involved in disaster response.

Child Care

When a disaster strikes, everything is in absolute disarray and order quickly breaks down. Home owners all over town are frantically searching for insurance policies and other documents hoping that it will all be covered. Children, just trying to hold on to some semblance of normal continue their games of hide and seek as best they can, meanwhile their parents are worried they are getting into trouble.

Many churches have nurseries or gymnasiums in their buildings and plenty of people looking for a job to do. Think of how much comfort you as a parent would have if you could go about your important business knowing that your children are in a safe environment at church? This important task can be done by someone who doesn’t feel comfortable mucking out a house.

We’ve even made that easy for you in our new VBS style children’s program called “Camp Courrage” for congregations in a community affected by disaster.  Here’s an informational brochure.

Food Service

For centuries, churches have come together for meals to care for their members and communities. When disasters happen, volunteers from outside the community are likely to pour in.  Food Service is a great way to provide for volunteers and can even be a part of an overall volunteer plan. Part of your team is doing the dirty work while the rest of the team covers the food. This way, your team can go into a community and be totally self-sufficient.

How many of your members claim to have the world’s best Lasagna? Has your ladies aid group mastered the funeral sandwich assembly line? Does your men’s club love to BBQ? All of these groups could put their skills to work feeding volunteers and the community. It’s even possible a local grocer or restaurant would give you a good deal or donate food altogether if you told them what you were doing.

There are even jobs for people who could burn water if they tried to cook. Put these people on clean up crew collecting trash, sweeping crumbs, and wiping down tables. I’ve even heard of churches getting drivers together to bring food to volunteer teams out in the field. These are all fantastic ways for everyone to contribute.

Paperwork

Try to remember the last time you had paperwork to file. Maybe it was getting new homeowners insurance, registering a vehicle, or applying for a building permit. Take that stress and multiply that with grief of losing loved ones, anxiety that your home has been destroyed, and the urgent deadline of pressing needs. I know that I have a hard enough time filling out paperwork on a normal day. I can’t imagine doing it after my life has been flipped upside down by a disaster.

How many of your members have special professional skills such as accounting, insurance claims adjusting or practicing law and know paperwork like the back side of their hand. They could work with victims to walk through the endless stack of forms that they are required to file in order to have any hope of financial assistance from the government or insurance agents. This simple service could provide very meaningful comfort and is something that doesn’t involve getting hands dirty.

Do you have other ideas?

Just like last week’s post about getting youth involved in disaster response there are nearly endless ways to get involved. Here are two full pages of Volunteer Opportunities from our LERT manual but this is hardly an exhaustive list. I want to hear your ideas. Come join our discussion group on Facebook and share them with us!

If you want a free packet of resources to share with your congregation about getting involved and forming a LERT team, send us an email at Disaster@lcms.org.

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Note: LCMS leader blog articles express the personal experiences and views of our ministry staff and have not been subjected to the LCMS doctrinal review process. Readers are encouraged to leave questions in the comment section or consult their pastor with any queries related to this content.

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