Faith and nonprofit communities respond to area's recent wildfires
Faith communities, volunteer organizations and the Red Cross have been responding to providing relief following wildfires in August and particularly after Labor Day winds in Central and Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Now they prepare for next steps for phases of immediate and long term recovery using structures in place with national, regional and local faith communities.
Ongoing giving provides resources for immediate response. Appeals for donations continue. Congregation members and individuals also provide tangible ways to respond. The following is a sampling of actions.
Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADS), other faith groups, the American Red Cross, Spokane County Emergency Management, Whitman County Community Management, the United Methodist Church, Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, VOAD NW and WAVOAD coordinated a Multi-Agency Resource Center, setting up a tent Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and, in Malden for people needing help.
The Episcopal Diocese of Spokane . . .
is collecting Disaster Relief Funds for those affected by fires within our communities.
The diocese is also working with volunteer organizations and Episcopal Relief and Development, organizing to assist communities, neighbors and friends.
"Our community and many others across the western United States and Canada are experiencing devastation to their communities by wildfires," said Mallory Davis, bishop's executive assistant.
"We have members in Malden, Davenport and friends in the Omak and Chelan areas affected by the devastation there, and we have teams responding throughout our communities to discern the needs of those people.
"We hold everyone affected by these terrible fires in our prayers," she said.
For information, call 624-3191 or visit https://www.spokanediocese.org to donate.
The Northern Lights Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) . . .
work through Week of Compassion, its disaster relief organization to respond to wildfire and hurricane damage.
This group works ecumenically with other relief organizations and Church World Service, said Sandy Messick, Northern Lights region minister.
"They have already been in touch with me and are reaching out to affected Disciples in the region," she said. "We have only had a couple who actually lost homes, more that had to be evacuated but thankfully their homes were not lost."
For information, visit weekofcompassion.org.
United Methodist leaders from across the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of Idaho, Oregon, Washington,
Alaska and parts of Montana and Canada have been meeting to respond to the wildfires of the region as people are evacuated, damage has spread and people face loss of lives, homes, other property and livelihoods.
"People of faith want to do good in the face of danger, but we need to work to ensure that the good we intend does not accidentally do harm," said Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area in an online message.
"As we seek to respond to these wildfires, I acknowledge how weary everyone is right now from these demands, on top of coronavirus, on top of dismantling racism, on top of escalating partisanship that is eroding our ability to work together for the common good," she said.
Disaster response teams in the Greater Northwest Area act "as the hands and feet of Jesus in communities across the area and in partnership with local churches," she said.
"These wildfires show how devastating these disasters can be," Elaine said, "yet this year it seems like one crisis erupts on top of the next. So, we call out to God, seeking mercy. Seeking relief. Seeking just one day when we do not feel danger near at hand and it doesn't feel like the weight of the world is on each of our shoulders."
She called for prayers for the safety of friends and neighbors, for those who have already suffered loss of life, for the first responders and wild land firefighters.
"Join me in praying for God's good creation, that we may tend to her more carefully," she continued. "Join me, also, in a call to action through our gifts of financial resources."
The Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conferences have each received emergency grants of $10,000 from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to support response efforts, not enough to meet needs.
Ministry settings planning to provide relief support in their communities work with their district superintendents and local churches or director of connectional ministries with other ministry settings to address community needs and requests from local government authorities and established disaster response agencies such as the Red Cross for relief support. Some churches designated to be used for wildfire relief support activities.
For information, visit https://greaternw.org/responding-to-wildfires-across-the-greater-northwest-area/
Michelle Mitchell, a Disciples of Christ pastor serving Trinity United Methodist in Ritzville and Harrington United Methodist, . .
has found in her four years at Harrington that most people in the congregation take care of each other.
Members have had loses because of the fire than ranged from Rockland to Davenport along Hwy. 28. Some have lost pastures and seek places to graze their cattle. Some had cattle they had to put down because their hooves had been so badly burned. One farmer lost fences, which will take $10,000 to replace.
"Members of the congregation are helping each other as they usually do," she said, telling how other farmers helped a farmer who was hospitalized complete his harvest.
Wildfires inspired action of individuals. . .
In a posting on Facebook, one woman shared what she was able to do by contacting a congregation in Coeur d'Alene that helped deliver meat to Malden.
Even though she has no car and can barely walk, she made phone calls from her couch and arranged collection of donations of meat and a driver to deliver to victims of fires in Inchelium.
In a comment on Facebook, a friend reported that Omak stores were out of meat because of losing freezers full of food with the power outages.
She added that many of the tribe were out fighting fires and there was need for some backup cowboys to help round up cows that were roaming and start fence repairs.
Lutheran Disaster Response . . .
Fueled by a heat wave and winds, wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington have killed at least 20 people and led to evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people as more than 3.5 million acres have burned.
Lutheran Disaster Response of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is engaging with three Lutheran social service agencies and five synods to assess the situation and determine response. Immediate needs response will include food and necessities, plus emotional and spiritual care.
Lutheran Disaster Response is receiving donations at elca.org/wildfires.
Locally, Cathy Steiner of the Northwest Intermountain Synod said that the synod is assessing the damage from a dozen fires in the area so it can direct funds to areas of most need.
For information, call 838-9871.
Scott Cooper, director of Parish Social Ministries with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington, . . .
said Catholic Charities is responding to needs from the Cold Springs fire in the Okanogan, the Pearl Hill Fire in Douglas County and the Babb Rd. Fire in Malden and Pine City in Whitman County.
Steps toward recovery began with two North Central Washington groups through response of the Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Group, which had helped after the Carlton Complex Fire in 2014, and the Unmet Needs Round Table.
They have case managers in conversation with people and are acting as a clearing house for agencies and congregations to come together and coordinate efforts to reduce duplication and assure efficient use of resources, Scott said.
The Red Cross housed 20 households from Malden at the Ramada Inn in Spokane, he added.
Catholic Charities has some funds in restricted accounts available and sent appeals to its donors for the wildfires.
There is also response to the Palmer Hill Fire in August and a small fire on Custom Hill Rd north of Curlew that destroyed some primary residences.
"I'm waiting for referrals for specific needs requests. We provided bottled water when Brewster High School was an evacuation center. It's closed now. About 17 evacuees from Bridgeport lost their homes. Most were agricultural workers on H-2 visas to work six months. Orchard owners negotiated to house them.
"The wildfire disasters entered the medium term phase of recovery by early September," said Scott.
For the Babb Rd. Fire, the Red Cross and United Way of Whitman County arranged for Rosalia churches to receive donations. Scott said they were overwhelmed and had to turn away donations.
For information, call 358-4372.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2020