I recently had the opportunity to witness and assist the Texas VOAD disaster response efforts for the Spring 2012 tornadoes that devastated Lancaster, Forney, Arlington, and many other parts of the DFW metroplex. Early in the afternoon, I was attending the Texas Department of Emergency Management Hurricane Conference. This was a unique circumstance as the majority of the DFW emergency response personnel were also attending the conference, so the need to coordinate relief efforts presented difficult challenges. It was amazing to see the transition from an education based conference to a spontaneous setup of an emergency operations center. In my former role as the Secretary-Treasurer I was able to build relationships within the Texas VOAD (a group of leading NGO's responding to disasters in Texas). After the hurricane hit, these same caring volunteers and NGO personnel coordinated the delivery of clothes, feeding opportunities, sheltering, temporary housing, and case management to assist with insurance and other types of disaster reimbursement claims.
The Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster provided the needed capacity to fill out the lacking necessities of the response efforts. It is times like this that your faith and will can be tested, but Texas can feel a little safer knowing that there is a dynamic group of willing volunteers who have dedicated their lives to providing opportunities for disaster victims to recover from a devastating event. Groups like the Adventist Community Services, Red Cross, Save the Children, St. Vincent DePaul, Southwest Baptist Men, the Texas Food Bank Network, Lutheran disaster response, and many others banded together regardless of differing beliefs to help victims in need. This truly represents the power of the human spirit and I echo the words of the great anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I hope that readers of this small article are inspired to investigate how they can make an impact through volunteering, or donating to groups that are assisting the people less fortunate in their local communities. Any and every effort you can contribute could make a difference in someone's life and allow them to have a normal and productive life.
-Brad Watts, Senior Programs Manager