Methodists Building Reputation for Disaster Recovery Leadership

Date Posted: 3/13/2014

Rick Carpenter is the type of guy that can’t ignore the physical and emotional aftermath that follows hurricanes, fires, and explosions and other natural and manmade disasters. “God tells us to help his people – period - and that’s all I need to know to get involved,” he says.
In less than a decade he has catapulted into leadership in this area of service, from naïve mission volunteer to West District Disaster Relief Coordinator for TACCOR (Texas Annual Conference Committee on Relief) to his most recent post as Founding President of the Walker County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).
His Leadership Lesson #1 to share is some people pursue a particular leadership role or goal and others “back into it” as a result of following their passion. “My story is one of just being curious and becoming more knowledgeable about the Methodist system of response to help me at least determine what I could do as an individual Methodist." A member of  First UMC, Huntsville, Rick’s disaster experiences have since taken him to several nearby states to help with hurricane recovery.

Rick’s Leadership Lesson #2 is the hardest part of leadership is the first step. “All it takes is willingness! As I was asking around to see who or what agencies were responsible for Walker County, I was nominated to figure that out and start a new coordination center,” Rick adds. “I learned Leadership Lesson #3 while trying to herd several agencies and groups to work together – that is, communication must be tailored to the audience. If someone doesn’t understand, I see that as my fault, not theirs.” What motivates Rick to take on this kind of groundbreaking leadership role? Explains Rick, “The quick answer is that we are to follow Christ’s model of serving others. But on a more technical level, I pursued starting this new VOAD knowing that Huntsville is positioned strategically to be an excellent hub for disaster relief when coastal events bring us evacuees, for example.” The VOAD will help the volunteer organizations to spread resources further and not duplicate efforts, including working with state and other governmental agencies. “Emergency response belongs to the city and county leaders, but our disaster response teams are available to help the civil authorities, particularly in the recovery phase.” Rick believes this new organization will help individuals and families get assistance more seamlessly as each disaster response group passes them to the next one, as needed. 

When it comes to volunteer work in the realm of disaster relief, his heartfelt message to others in the TAC is to consider volunteering, knowing that there is training available and jobs of all shapes and sizes to accommodate ages, skills and abilities. (One such training is coming up on March 27 at St. Paul’s UMC at 5501 Main) “There is a misperception that disaster work is too much, too hard, too intense,” he explains, “but the fact is we can plug people into small or large jobs of all types. And, the more of us that get involved, the bigger witness we will have in the world. Many times people that wouldn’t normally set foot in a church will ask us why we do this kind of work, and that conversation might ultimately lead them to a church, or to God for comfort in their time of need.” One easy way to get involved is to join a CARE group: Caregivers Actively Responding in Disaster (CARE). Information on this emerging ministry will be available in Cross Connection later this spring. 
Rev. Ellen Willett, Associate Pastor and representative in the VOAD knows the importance of Rick’s new leadership role for the denomination, God’s kingdom and mankind in general. “The church is thankful for people who offer their time and their talents to serve God's people -- and Rick Carpenter has a passion for helping people through his owns gifts and helping people prepare to help other people devastated by disasters -- whether that disaster is a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, drought or an explosion.  In addition to his work with disaster response, Rick has served as a meals-on-wheels driver for the local Senior Center, served on the board for Habitat for Humanity, and on the C.O.M.E. board (another local service agency).  Rick truly understands being a doer of God's word, not simply a hearer!"