Rick Carpenter Pioneers a New Approach for the Area of Disaster Recovery

Date Posted: 1/10/2013

Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, tornados and floods, Rick Carpenter has plenty of excuses for missing church at First UMC of Huntsville. If absent, Rick is likely following his passion for helping others in the midst of disaster.


He admits leadership in the area of emergency response has a scary side, but he sees how God has put him in the right place at the right time to prepare him for a new role as a community organizer focused on regional disaster recovery. Notes Rick, who has served TACCOR as one of two District Disaster Response Coordinators for the West District since 2010, “I've been involved in church mission work since 1994 and an Early Response Team member for hurricane recovery in Mississippi and Texas. Being involved in church Red Cross shelter operations in Huntsville for Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike also put me into contact with our county Office of Emergency Management.”


Rick’s path toward becoming a specialist and leader in this area has involved a number of related roles that have knit an extensive network of relationships with churches, governmental agencies and businesses – the trifecta needed to make recovery efforts much more effective. Adds Rick, “I had heard of a quiet campaign by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (a DPS office) to encourage each Texas county to establish a VOAD (Volunteer Organization Active in Disaster) or become a member of a regional VOAD. When I found out Walker County was not included in the Gulf Coast Regional VOAD, and asked who was responsible for getting one established, guess what the answer was? ‘You are!’"


Admits Rick, “That's when the scary part started. Thankfully, I had help getting the ball rolling and I am excited about Walker County’s initial public meeting next week on January 15th at the Veterans Conference Center in Huntsville. What I'm most looking forward to will be helping bring recovery aid to Walker County when it's needed.”


After working over a year to create a new nonprofit VOAD, his dream comes to fruition this week.  The city, county and state are in the business of direct disaster response, but the VOAD would help to provide money, manpower or logistical coordination. Rick hopes to integrate many other member organizations to become truly functional as a VOAD, but says, “We'll grow as God has us grow. Though motivated by church people, the Walker County VOAD will be a secular organization, somewhat equivalent to the UMCOR partner disaster recovery agencies. Like them, we'll leverage the muscle of our members' parent church relief organizations but will also be able to access money and other resources from governmental agencies, non-profits, and businesses.”


The nonprofit status opens doors to greater resources. He says that recovery involves government on one side, and business, NGOs/non-profits, and individual efforts on the other side to tackle disaster management and complete a recovery. VOAD participants will focus on coordination, communication, collaboration and cooperation to minimize duplication of services.


Leadership is often the byproduct of other supportive friends. “I am thankful for my Methodist friend Noelle Thompson and Charles Lawson, East Texas Director of the Texas Baptist Men, who charted this course alongside me!”

His perspective on leadership: “No matter how scary it is to step out in uncharted waters -- you have to trust God and jump in right away because from those to whom much has been given, much is expected. The steps for success are to pray first for the "want to," after that -- the knowledge of what to do and the opportunities for the love-labor follow and never cease.”