Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Encourages Congregations to Get Involved to Help Others

James Kirk plays an integral part in helping people impacted by disasters and emergencies. He is the Associate for Disaster Response (U.S.) for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is the emergency and refugee program of the Presbyterian Church USA.

“I am responsible for coordinating our denomination’s domestic response to disasters,” James said.

“I do have a colleague with the same responsibilities for international response.”

James said a significant part of that responsibility is managing more than 100 PDA National Volunteers, some of whom are in Grace Presbytery, including Jim Reinarz, Suzanne and Alan Baroody, Phil Darby, Jim Ellor, Bill Maritt, and John Tieken.

“Specifically, these volunteers from Grace Presbytery are National Response Team (NRT) members,” James said. “The NRT meets annually for training and also attend other training events throughout the year. They are deployed in response to disasters across the country. They are encouraged to be engaged locally in their congregations, Presbyteries and VOADs (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster).”

James said PDA is active in 18 states right now, but help is especially needed in specific areas. “We have several volunteer opportunities in Texas in both New Covenant and Mission Presbyteries,” he said. “In particular the need is great in Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana.”

With spring break approaching, there may be a variety of groups searching for opportunities to help those in need.

James said PDA volunteers can be from all walks of life, ages, and backgrounds.

“Anyone and everyone can be involved,” he said. “There are many activities that can be done from home, such as fundraisers and assembling Gifts of the Heart kits. If a group wishes to travel to volunteer in rebuilding efforts, all ages are welcome. When a team does volunteer, in addition to workers doing rebuilding, there is the need for someone to prepare the meals for the group or accompany the group with the task of spending time with the home owner if a home owner is present during the work day.”

James said there is a process that potential volunteers can use to get started.

“I encourage everyone to review our web site, talk with the National Response Team members in Grace Presbytery, and call the National Call Center to talk about dates and location,” he said. “Attend a PDA training event where you can learn about Human Caused Disasters, Volunteer Mission Teams Ministry, and other related topics. People can start volunteering immediately.”

There will be a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Informative Gathering about “Disaster & PDA 101” on Friday, Feb. 23. This gathering that will explain why Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is involved in local disaster situations and how churches and individuals can offer or seek assistance through PDA. This provides a unique opportunity to build intra-presbytery relationships for long-term partnerships in rebuilding and disaster resiliency with the national staff team and responders from Grace Presbytery.

Visit our page to learn more and make your reservation:

James recommends several helpful links to PDA website pages for interested volunteers who want to become involved in helping those impacted by disaster:

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance website

Find out where PDA is responding nationally

See a list of states and volunteer work sites

Review suggestions on how to volunteer and how to contact the National PDA Call Center