New Jersey rivers flooded, not once but four years in a row. Rising waters overcame the same homes and neighborhoods, over and over again.

Personal belongings were strewn across lawns waiting for the local trash collectors to gather and dispose of forever. Collectables, photos, furniture, clothes, toys, and other assorted memories were destroyed and thrown away.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the southern states off the Gulf of Mexico, people lost their homes and businesses. Thousands of longtime residents wandered down roads helpless and homeless. The daily TV news showed the painful pictures of devastation.

My heart broke. My frustration grew. My heart was heavy. I was overwhelmed with an anxious spirit.

I wanted to go and help the hurting people. I longed to meet their needs. << Click to Tweet

I couldn’t go. There was no way that I could leave my home, job, and family to help. There was no solution other than to send money to a favorite organization or to respond to the toll free number on the TV screen…or so I thought.

Then the destructive effects of heavy spring rains hit close to home. My church flooded. The basement was filled with four-to-six inches of dirty water. We didn’t lose much, but it left us with an enormous mess that would take a lot of effort to clean up. The smell was horrific and no one knew where to begin.

I responded to an email that offered help for our dilemma. The next morning, a team of workers with a tractor-trailer filled with flood recovery equipment from North Carolina showed up at the church to solve our problem. They pumped the water, removed rugs, cleaned the floors, and sanitized the whole bottom floor of the building.

The job was done. Amazing! Every area was clean. The musty moldy aroma was gone and the basement smelled great!

I was so impressed. I was so excited. To add to my enthusiasm, I realized that the disaster team was made up of all volunteers.

Right then and there I decided I would join the volunteer relief effort, I was eager to train. To learn all I could about helping people through disaster, I took the first opportunity available and soaked in the information like a sponge.

I felt much more than an urge to volunteer. I felt called. <<Click to Tweet

I accepted the responsibility to volunteer for disaster relief as a mission for my life.

Three weeks after my training, New Jersey flooded again. I was ready. I volunteered. I still had a full-time job, but I prepared meals for a team of volunteers who cleaned out homes. I was blessed to be part of the solution, as needs were met and suffering people received relief for some of their troubles.

Most people think once the immediate disaster has passed and the media stops reporting, the work is over. Wrong!

Homeowners still need help cleaning. Repairs and rebuilding projects are just starting. The victims need emotional support. Finances must be available for necessary projects.

Volunteers are needed.

In 2013, there were 49 disasters in the United States.Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, windstorms, and forest fires were a few of the challenges that required volunteers.

Faith-based organizations ask for volunteers as well. Some groups require participation in one of their churches or synagogues. During and after a disaster, many different groups work together to minister to victims .

Local VOADs (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) across our country look for volunteers especially following a local or national crisis. Hundreds of opportunities are available through county VOAD groups. They communicate with help groups and connect volunteers to needs.

I trained with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the third largest disaster relief organization in the U.S. after American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. Since I started volunteer work, I have joined teams from many states. I worked in food preparation and with chainsaw teams to remove trees and branches. I have cleaned out dozens of homes as well as provided homeowners with emotional support. Our team is also involved in many repair and rebuilding projects.

Hundreds of homes are still in need of repair and restoration since Hurricane Sandy landed in New Jersey. There are still victims who have been forced to live with relatives and friends.

There is still great need…and probably always will be. So why not volunteer for disaster relief? Be  prepared to be blessed and be a blessing!

Interested in Volunteering?

Here are some Volunteer Guidelines to get you on the right track:

  1. Contact a local VOAD to get an assignment or to volunteer with a group.
  2. Contact your faith-based group to join a volunteer group.
  3. Do not show up as a volunteer unless given instructions of deployment.
  4. Let the leaders know any limitations in your work ability.
  5. Join with a group that does the kind of work that fits your talents or desires.
  6. There are rules to follow in Disaster Relief; Join a group and work as a team.
  7. Donate non-perishable items to a local food bank (food is always needed).
  8. Give a monetary gift to your organization of choice (money is a necessity).

We would love to hear some of the ways you lend a hand and help those in need... Tell us in the comments below. 


Elaine L. O’Neill currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, Dennis, and their two grown adopted children. She has a passion for prayer, teaching, missions and parenting. She is an excellent communicator, has a strong Biblical foundation, and loves using her gift of teaching to inspire people to pray, share their faith, become strong disciples and grow spiritually. Elaine is a Bible teacher, speaker, writer and children’s worker. Her  blogs are found at .

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