After the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017, volunteers from all walks of life have been drawn to help. While many provide much-needed financial support, others pack a semitrailer full of supplies or drive down to lend a helping hand.
Here's how Thrivent members and their families are taking generosity on the road.
Cleaning, clearing, listening
Before living in Bozeman, Montana, Mary Gammill lived in Houston for 10 years. Mary and her husband, Michael, a Thrivent financial representative, experienced some severe Texas storms – and the human kindness and community spirit that prevail when natural disasters occur.
"Because of our love of the people there, and the strength of the Texas spirit that seeped into me over 10 years, I needed to go do what I could," Mary says.
Elizabeth Gammill, the couple's 12-year-old daughter, also put her beliefs into action. She raised $1,000 at her school to support the Houston Food Bank.
Mary and Elizabeth then headed to Houston. They spent a weekend in September cleaning out the home of a 60-year-old widow. Her home had to be demolished down to the studs.
The Gammills carried out soggy drywall and tried to sort the few items that might be salvageable. Perhaps most important, they listened to the owner and others in the neighborhood as they processed their trauma. Mary said it was heartbreaking. But, she adds, amid "as much tragedy as the eye could see and the heart could process, were the helpers seeking to match the need."
"I had a vision that we needed to do something. It was a God moment."
Delivering supplies: 3 trucks, 6,500-plus miles
Thrivent Financial Representative Matt Buehrer, of Tipp City, Ohio, saw TV news reports about flooding in Houston and he jumped into action. "I had a vision that we needed to do something. It was a God moment," he says.
About a week after Harvey made landfall, Buehrer began collecting donations and getting the word out via a local blogger and TV stations. Within a day and a half, Thrivent members, as well as other community members, donated enough bottled water, diapers, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies and other donations to fill a semitrailer.
And the generosity kept multiplying. Buehrer donated $5,000, which was doubled through Thrivent's Gift Multiplier Program. Thrivent also committed to match all disaster response donations made through Thrivent.com to featured organizations, up to $3 million or December 31, 2017, whichever comes first. With the media attention, he was able to raise an additional $12,000 in three days.
All of these efforts led to 120,000 pounds of supplies sent to Houston on three separate semitrailers, all donated by Ohio businesses. They were driven by volunteers who each gave about four days of their time. A fourth semi is in the works.
In addition, Buehrer encouraged local Thrivent members to lead neighborhood Thrivent Action Teams to collect donations. The donations are going to the Community of Faith Church in Houston. And organizers plan to deliver a trailer full of toys and bikes for Christmas gifts.
Distributing materials: 250 families, 3 days
Thrivent Financial Representative Rich Kirchoff felt called to help with hurricane relief efforts after talking with clients in Beaumont, Texas, a town hit especially hard by Harvey. He connected with a relief organization in Texas, and then he and Thrivent member Tom Ryan drove straight through – from Minnesota to Victoria, Texas, about 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
Kirchoff and Ryan assisted at a distribution center unloading three semitrailers filled with brand-new items such as mattresses, blankets and coats. They worked alongside other volunteers from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for three days, distributing items to 250 families in need.
During the entire process, Kirchoff and Ryan offered hugs and listened to people who needed to tell their stories. Kirchoff fondly recalls the time he spent helping the people of Texas: "I still get emotional thinking about the experience. This will impact me for a while."
Want to help unite people in your community?
All over the country, Thrivent members hear the call of service to lend a helping hand after natural disasters. Some give money, some give time and all bring hope to those in need.
Interested in helping communities in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria? See how you can get involved.