Lutheran Disaster Response

Our response to disasters in the U.S. and around the world; look for sections of this blog related to specific disaster locations. Comments are welcomed and moderated.

Hurricane Sandy: The Art of Giving & Receiving Thanks

Posted on November 16, 2012 by Matthew Ley
On the way to work this morning I heard a really great report on NPR about the ways people are supporting the response on the East Coast to Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. It was discussing how in-kind, material gifts are handled and how they affect the process. The overall point of the report was that even though in-kind, material donations are a great sign of the amazing giving nature of people in this country they may effect relief efforts in unintended ways. One of the main reasons for this is that without knowing the specific needs of those affected by disaster in-kind gifts like water, food and clothing may not end up being needed but will still have to be sorted, processed and stored. Running the risk of taking away energies from other relief efforts. Also, many of the organizations who are carrying out the relief and eventual recovery efforts are also able to acquire better deals for needed items because of bulk purchasing and special agreements with vendors. In the end the article lifts up that financial contributions, though seemingly less tangible, actually are the most useful type of support. The report also had a short piece at the end about a woman who was looking for a way to say thank you to the National Guardsmen who had helped her after she found out her home was destroyed. When she asked what she could do to thank them, they said nothing, that they were happy to help. So she decided to share the gift of homemade baked goods as a way of expressing thanks. This highlighted for me an important point for those who choose to give of their time by volunteering after a disaster. As we help those affected by disaster, part of responding to the whole person is giving them the space and ways to give thanks. This is not to say we are to demand, nor even to expect, expressions of thanks, but that by giving someone the space to give thanks when they request it is actually allowing them a way to feel a part of their own recovery. For many the gift of being able to give proper thanks will mean as much to them in their recovery process as the fixed roof over their head, new clothing and/or restored power. I think it is one of the deepest and most difficult ways we are called by Christ to be neighbor. Please take time to read/listen to the report and to think about how we can all best support the efforts on the East Coast and following future disasters. Want To Help Sandy Victims? Send Cash, Not Clothes (NPR, November 16, 2012) ___________ Gifts to ELCA Disaster Response allow the church to respond domestically and internationally in times of need. Donate now.

6 Responses to 'Hurricane Sandy: The Art of Giving & Receiving Thanks'

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  1. Marilyn Hormann said,

    on November 16th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I have been a domestic disaster relief worker on assignment with the American Red Cross. An immediate cash donation to a trusted relief and development organization is hands-down the most helpful. Yes, hearts go out to those touched by disaster, and the best help is what is really needed. We can educate givers that receivers have real and diverse needs and monetary donations to a trusted organization have the best possibility of helping those who have experienced a disaster and need emergency help. The best Relief organizations are also Development organizations, they engage in post recovery and provide for unmet needs over the long-term. This has been my experience. Lutheran Disaster Services and Lutheran World Relief are first-class organizations that provide disaster services and long-term development to those we include in our prayers and have a heart to help.

  2. Paula Davis said,

    on November 16th, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Our W.E.L.C.A group here in Salem, Oregon (Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church) decided to send a cash gift to the Sandy Disaster Relief effort, from our Christmas party offering in December, and would like to designate it to a specific Lutheran church in the disaster area, to personalize it for our members. Can this be done? Thank you for your response.

  3. Barry said,

    on November 18th, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I have contacted my local LDR. They know nothing about volunteers. Who to contact, where to go etc. There are six of us with experience on the gulf coast,Iowa,New England. Why is there none of that info. readily available? We may go with The Bible Fellowship group, they are looking for people……..

  4. Matthew Ley said,

    on November 19th, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Thanks Marilyn for your comments and for your work. Monetary gifts are going to be most helpful in quickly and efficiently meeting the varied needs individuals and communities affected by disasters. I know for some this type of giving feels disconnected as it is not usually feasible to determine exactly where each dollar has been used in the response. It lacks the relationship and story that comes with giving a particular item, like a quilt or bottle of water. My hope is that people would see their gifts as supporting the totality of a response, and therefore would begin to see the stories of help and hope we share as made possible by their gifts. Part of that of course lays a responsibility of us who work in the response to gather and share these stories so those who have generously given may see what it is they are making possible.

    I also fully agree with your comment that relief must be connected with development responses. In both our domestic and international disaster responses the ELCA is committed to making this happen through connecting the immediate relief efforts with the long-term recovery and development work we engage in. There is even an acronym for it: LRRD (Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development). By thinking long-term early on the transition from disaster to the “new” normal becomes much smoother. By thinking about potential relief needs during rehabilitation work, communities can become better prepared for future disasters and can help mitigate their effects. In the end, wherever we connect to this work we hope that God will guide our efforts as we strive to bring help and hope to those in need.

  5. Matthew Ley said,

    on November 19th, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Paula, thank you for commenting and the willingness of your WELCA group to help respond to the needs of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. In response to your questions, gifts to ELCA Disaster Response for Hurricane Sandy will be used where needed most and therefore it is not feasible for us to designate gifts in this manner. If you would like to set up a relationship with a particular congregation I would suggest going through the synods in the affected areas, either the Metro New York synod ( or the New Jersey synod (

  6. Matthew Ley said,

    on November 19th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Barry, thank you for reaching out and for your desire to serve as a volunteer to help meet the growing need of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. I am sorry you have had difficulty tracking down the information you are looking for. I would suggest checking out the LDR website ( since this is where we will be posting information about volunteer and donation opportunities as we find out about them. You can also check with our local affiliates in the area: Lutheran Social Services of New York ( and Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey (

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