There just aren’t enough volunteers

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Josh Hipp, a disaster relief coordinator, sat on top of a picnic table across the bonfire from me and stated a harsh fact that has burned in my mind ever since.

“Volunteers like to go off to the latest disaster,” he said. But with the numbers of natural disasters piling up–Hurricanes Florence and Michael, wildfires in California–volunteers are beginning to burnout, Hipp said.

It’s getting harder and harder to get people willing to give up a week or two repairing someone’s home when the natural disasters come one on top of the other, he said. Everyone wants to rush to the latest spot, but what about the people devastated by last year’s hurricane or the one before that?

I met Josh at a bonfire on one of our last nights of a three-week stint volunteering for NOMADS in Crystal River, Florida this fall. It was an easy gig. We were working for the Crystal River United Methodist Church building new classrooms for a school the church is starting, painting the outside of a house for one of the members, weeding and generally doing maintenance.

NOMADS is a Methodist organization that does service projects in churches and communities. Its members also repair homes damaged by natural disasters. The group has disaster rebuilds in the Midwest and Louisiana for homes flooded out, in Key West, North Carolina and now the Florida Panhandle for hurricane damage.

NOMADS isn’t the first group into a disaster zone. They’re the ones that arrive a year later to repair your roof, sheet rock the walls or put in wiring.

Josh has been traveling around the country for the last eight years doing disaster rebuilds. Lately, his motorhome and trailer have been parked on the church’s property while he works in the area.

He supervises groups like NOMADS repairing homes for people who have gotten grants to do repairs after natural disasters. Recently he’s been working for Catholic Charities supervising Mennonites repairing homes damaged on Florida’s Gulf Coast last year.

Before his time was up in Florida¬† another hurricane had wrecked the coast. He’s already been called to go up to the Florida Panhandle where this fall Hurricane Michael wiped some towns off the map.

Well-meaning people have already flooded the area with help, but the nagging question Josh faces is will there be enough volunteers to do the work a month or a year from now when the repair grants are approved and the materials bought. Who will hammer the nails or install the wiring?

Experts say the climate is becoming more extreme. More devastating storms. That means more flooding. More damaged homes needing repairs and more people needed to do the work.

Who will do the necessary repair work that will be needed because our leaders have failed to work on the larger question of lessening man’s impact on climate. See the government’s latest climate report.

Will there be enough volunteers?


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