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Church Readies Community & Congregation for Disaster
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By Melanie Finke, American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter
July 25, 2010

When disasters hit, people turn to churches in the community. After all, churches provide the support they need in day-to-day life. It just makes sense to rely on them during the devastation of a disaster.

That’s why the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter is working with faith-based organizations such as Acts Full Gospel Church to help extend the reach of disaster relief and preparedness outreach.

“If there is a major disaster, why can’t we as a faith-based organization also step up the plate and help people, giving food, comfort and being able to talk to them?” says Juanita Hill, a member of Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland.

Hill is one of the more than 50 volunteers of the Red Cross team at the church. Every other month, the group meets for training in shelter operations or to teach a class in disaster preparedness for the members of the congregation.

The partnership began in 1999 when the Red Cross contacted Acts Full Gospel Church to see if it would be interested in becoming a shelter site. What followed was a successful pilot program, which saw 28 people participate in shelter operations training, first aid and CPR classes, and a mock shelter drill. The program was subsequently rolled out to the entire chapter and continues to build a cadre of community shelter teams.

Acts Full Gospel Church is able to shelter up to 1,000 people using the sanctuary as the sleeping area and classrooms as the dining and living areas. The Red Cross has pre-positioned two supplies trailers in the parking lot, ensuring the team can immediately activate a shelter if needed.

“It goes back to the vision of our pastor. He says we are to be a light in the community and to help people,” says Hill. “That’s why we’re so excited about [working with] the Red Cross. If something bad happens we’re there to assist. We’re there as a congregation to help those in need.”

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