Standing Together in the Storms


September, 2017

Community Impact

Rarely has the US experienced a month like this one. September 2017 has already seen the landfall of two major hurricanes impacting the lives of millions in the Southeast, especially Texas and Florida.

The YMCAs in those regions have been deeply impacted by these storms. Flooding, loss of power, wind damage, displacement of their staff and the overwhelming needs in their communities have created an opportunity for YMCAs to demonstrate their Christian principles in meaningful action.

Hundreds of YMCA folks from around the country responded immediately to these twin disasters. Y-USA, the Y Retirement Fund and many local associations raised funds to support relief efforts. Work crews and Y staff members are serving as volunteers to help with the cleanup. They serve the multitude of families who have lost their homes. They have opened up YMCA facilities as shelters, childcare centers and distribution points for emergency supplies.

Many connected with the US Mission Network have offered prayers and support to YMCAs in the effected regions. We’ve heard from a number of people living through these challenging experiences and thought you might want to read a few of their responses.

Chaplains Nancy Abbott and Josh Heaston provide support for Houston

“Thanks so much for your prayers. God is good! The storm diminished a great deal before it came through our area. Our Y suffered with trees down, loss of power, and lots of tree branches and limbs on the ground. We had a couple of roof leaks. But, again God is good. The owner of one of the largest roofers in Polk County is on our board. He immediately sent workers out to repair the roof and fix other problems we had. Roofers are a hot commodity in times like these. Another member got us a tree service out, who will put us first on his agenda—another blessing from the Lord. So many miracles. I could go on and on and on. We are truly Praising God!”
—Joy Poteet, West Central Florida YMCA

“Nancy Abbott, chaplain for the San Antonio YMCA, and I visited 14 YMCAs to love and care for the staff of the Houston YMCA. After we encouraged them and prayed with them, we gave them each a bracelet to remind them to ask God when they need help and remind them that YMCAs across the country are praying for them now and in the weeks to come.”
—Josh Heaston, Chaplain, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis

“I wanted to just say a thank you for all of your prayers and encouragement as Josh and I were in Houston. We certainly felt the prayers of so many each day. It was amazing to just go where God led and watch people slowly share their hearts about how they were affected by the devastation. Again, prayer makes such a difference, and thank you for being a part of our journey.”
—Nancy Abbott, Chaplain, YMCA of Greater San Antonio

“Just a quick note to say thanks for keeping us in your prayers. All is slowly getting to back to a level of normalcy in South Palm Beach County and all things considered, we made it through better than many.”
—Jason Hagensick, CEO, YMCA of South Palm Beach County

“Thanks for checking. All is well. I have been busy with evacuees. Everything should be back to normal tomorrow, whatever normal is???? Haha.”
—Herb Sutherland, YMCA of Coastal Georgia

“Many Ys are short staffed due to the number of staff members who had to evacuate and are now trying to return. Those who are working are putting in long hours in tough conditions—high temperatures and humidity—when, in many cases, their own homes don’t have power and air conditioning. We all can be proud of the effort they are making in the name of the Y on behalf of their communities.”
—Kent Johnson, COO, Y-USA (Reporting on YMCAs in Florida)

One of the hardest hit areas during Hurricane Harvey was Houston, Texas. Almost one third of the entire city was flooded, resulting in massive damage and thousands of families being displaced from their homes. Businesses in the greater Houston area took a huge beating, including the Houston YMCA. Seven of their branches received significant damage that will take months to rebuild. Three others will require additional inspection before it can be determined if they can open, while four others simply don’t have enough staff available to open their doors.

Despite these heavy losses the Houston YMCA was able to open 14 of their branches to serve as emergency centers, distribution points for supplies, provide badly needed childcare services, open as feeding locations, and much more. Their response was almost immediate, supported by many of their friends within the larger YMCA movement.

Shortly after the storm had passed, CEO Paul McEntire addressed his staff. A portion of that correspondence is listed here:

“Today we reopen 14 YMCAs for two primary reasons:

  1. Our friends and neighbors throughout our community need us to do what we can to help.
  2. We are servant people who are driven by our care and compassion for others.

“As best we can we need to start collectively helping others, though there have been pockets of Y people helping others throughout the storm. We each have our own ways of getting the strength we need. For me the words of Psalm 46 have been a source of strength, so in closing, I offer them to you.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her.”