Lutheran Disaster Response-US (LDR-US) has appointed Liberty’s Lutheran Disaster Response-Eastern PA (LDR-EPA) coordinator Julia Menzo to the role of Eastern Regional Coordinator. In this leadership capacity, Julia will work to strengthen networking and connection among partner ministries up and down the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Virginia.
“As part of my role I will encourage Eastern Region members to evaluate their current capacities, as well as facilitate discussions around ways to develop and/or improve skills and expertise in emotional and spiritual care, volunteer management, disaster case management, and community resiliency,” says Julia.
Additionally, Julia will regularly network with Southern, Midwestern, and Western regional coordinators to discuss best practices between regions, as well as strengthen capacity building and skill levels among all partner ministries. “Strengthening the relationship between colleagues in the four regions in order to build capacities for disaster responses regionally and nationally has been a key focus of our network in the past few years,” says Joe Chu, LDR-US’ Associate Program Director.
On the local level, LDR-EPA’s Disaster Spiritual Partners (DSP) program, a unique initiative that trains pastors in disaster spiritual care and deploys these trained individuals to partner with faith-based leaders in disaster-stricken communities, is successfully entering its second year of operation.
“During our first year, we introduced the DSP program to more than 50 congregational leaders and made about 11 calls in response to disaster events, many of which included things like fires or floods in multi-unit apartment complexes. We’ve also been able to take advantage of a new tool at our disposal—daily American Red Cross (ARC) updates. We now have access to real data, as well as close contacts at ARC who can help us connect congregations with their local partners” says Julia.
Last, and certainly not least, LDR-EPA has innovated an approach to address smaller scale disasters that don’t qualify for federal relief funding. “Not every natural disaster in our region rises to the needs of federal relief funding or full-time efforts by disaster relief providers. Some only affect a small number of individuals and families, however the damage may be long-lasting and life-changing,” says Julia.
LDR-EPA has put together a team of six case managers who are on standby if and when the need arises to help disaster survivors who might otherwise fall through the cracks due to ineligibility for federal relief assistance.
The case managers, who are passionate about helping in long-term recovery efforts and come from rich backgrounds in outreach and helping professions, complete structured training given by LDR-EPA that so far has included Introduction to Disaster Case Management, The Supervisory Role in Disaster Case Management, and The Disaster Case Management/Construction Coordinator Relationship.
“This program is a first-of-its-kind in the region and is being examined as a possible model for other disaster relief providers to emulate,” says Julia.
If you would like to find out more about LDR-EPA and the work that it does, please visit lutherancongregationalservices.org/disaster.