Austin Disaster Relief Network, a network of more than 170 churches in the greater Austin area, partnered with local businesses to send supplies to hurricane Matthew survivors in Lumberton, North Carolina.
Story by Stephanie Adeline
Photo by Ashley Ephraim
ADRN is a non-profit organization that first started in 2009, aimed at giving both emotional and physical support to individuals affected by disasters. ADRN also hosts training for their volunteers. The trainings first start with orientations that take place in different churches. Volunteers can then continue to choose between two pathways: CERT and CISM. CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) equips volunteers with the skills and knowledge to help people in times of emergency. CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) training is intended to prepare volunteers to help victims deal with emotional and spiritual issues.
Michael Gardner, ADRN’s Operations Coordinator mentions that the training helps volunteers prepare for a broad range of disasters, from car accidents to hurricanes.
For example, on Oct. 15, ADRN sent two 18-wheelers filled with supplies to survivors in Lumberton, North Carolina. They also partnered with Tito’s Handmade Vodka and C3 Presents to load the 18-wheelers with cleanup supplies, toiletries, and drinking water. “The 18-wheelers were destined to go to Florida, originally,” says Katherine Ellis, ADRN’s Operations Assistant. “When we saw that Lumberton, North Carolina, was greatly impacted, far greater than any of the other areas, we rerouted the truck to Lumberton.”
In addition to hosting trainings, ADRN owns the Hope Family Thrift Store, which is donation-based. People donate items ranging from clothing, books, home décor and furniture.
Donors can also give merchandise specifically for disaster survivors. These items are displayed in the Hope Room, which is restricted to survivors only. During a disaster, ADRN will give away vouchers to survivors, which allows them to receive free merchandise from the thrift store.
Much of the merchandise in the Hope Room is donated by partner organizations. Gardner mentioned that ADRN recently partnered with an organization that allowed them to receive donations from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. “A lot of the stuff are actually brand new, and we get to then give that to a survivor that has just lost everything.”
Other supplies, such as mops and buckets, trash bags, hand sanitizers and inflatable mattresses, were contributed by the Austin community and collected at the Hope Family Thrift Store.
Some students also came to volunteer to help sort the supplies out. Zahira Correa, a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, shared her experience volunteering with ADRN. “I didn’t mind all the hard work,” Correa says. “I was so glad for all the donations that we received. When that truck was filled, you have no idea how proud we all were.”
“It was a real joy to see all [supplies] go away,” Ellis says. “It took a team, right? The team that put it together was the team that saw the truck go away.”
ADRN is still working on restocking basic supplies to prepare for the next disaster. “The disasters will continue to happen,” Gardner says. “But are we prepared for them?”