Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our Domestic Program - Karah Ricketts talk at 2011 Ripple Effect

edited for readability: Karah Ricketts - VP Domestic Missions talk at the 2011 Ripple Effect Banquet on September 24, 2011

Hi, thank you for being such a great group tonight.

I am Karah Ricketts. Tonight, I am talking about our Domestic program.

Back in 2008 when we first started hearing God’s call to “Go..” we knew we were going to work internationally, but our hearts have always been right here at home too. We grew up doing local mission work and knew that we would need to keep that part of drops of grace alive and vibrant.

We began our Domestic program working on hurricane torn areas on the coast of Texas: working in LaMarque and Beaumont.

While on the coast, back in Williamson County, Texas, tropical storm Hermine was pouring down...
In September 2010, Tropical Storm Hermine sat upon Williamson County and dumped more rain than what it would take to get us out of the drought now. Over 600 homes were affected in one way or another. Unfortunately, for many home owners, FEMA did not declare this area a Federal Disaster.

drops of grace partnered with VOAD, Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster-Williamson County to begin the vetting process of assisting the local homeowners here. This was a great opportunity for drops of grace. We were able to work alongside some of the finest nonprofits in Williamson County. Weekly meetings took place for months as we worked on and narrowed down the list of homeowners and marked them off as they finished each house. Many homes were bulldozed and only 8 homes came to the table for assistance from the county. Many homes were partners with local churches and only a few fell into the cracks where drops of grace would be able to assist. We worked with ADRN, Austin Disaster Relief Network, The Serving Center, United Way, the First United Methodist church of Round Rock as well as the county OEM (office of emergency management).

Here we are, a full year out, we are almost complete with the wrapping up of these homes. Over $60,000 was raised to put toward the rebuild of the 8 homes but the man power was almost 100% donated. I will estimate that we, as a community, have logged in a huge number of hours. There are several of us in this room tonight from the various agencies who alone have logged in more than 100 days of over 8 hours each day in the past year and I know I have seen many of you working on these homes. We were privileged to host a young ladies birthday party, her 18th birthday at that, at one house in which she and her friends painted the entire home in one day! They celebrated with the owner; had cake and then continued painting. This is part of what drops of grace is all about. This young lady was such an inspiration that others have come forward wanting to do the same for their graduation party & birthday party - this is a true ripple effect!  She is off at college, still doing mission work, helping others and placing drops of joy everywhere she goes. There is no doubt in my mind that her ripple will be in constant motion for the remainder of her life and will cause others around her to produce their own ripples in ways we might never know.

In Joplin, Missouri -

In April and May of this year, the United States took a hit of tornados all over. April alone produced 1032 and May added another 200 and 4 reached F5 categories.

drops of grace immediately called in to UMCOR to get on the list of rebuild groups willing to come and help. I knew we would have groups wanting to get together and go and help out and that is just what happened. We took many calls and inquiries about what and when drops of grace would go and help. Remember, the mission of drops of grace is to:

"hear and act on God’s call to partner with communities around the world to provide safe water, sanitation, health, education and shelter."

What does that mean with domestic response? What it means is that we are compassionate caring people who want to jump right in and help, but first, before we jump, we have to know what we are good at. We are good at relief & recovery.  As you heard Gregg Bouchard say, we are not first responders. We are relief & rebuilding and while we want to go and do, we “first hear & act on God’s call” we must be still and know that He is God, He will direct us where we need to be and when. In June, we received word that Joplin was ready for teams to begin coming in to rebuild. They came online sooner than Tuscaloosa, Alabama which was hit a month prior to Joplin. Off we went, on a mission…a mission to find a group to partner with.  Remember our mission statement…to partner with communities.  We went and we interviewed several agencies and we decided to invest our time and resources with a group called Relief Spark.  They are a group who are based in New Orleans, formed after Hurricane Katrina, but the founder is from Joplin. This group hit the ground running in Joplin the first week after the tornado hit. Ben Tarpley is a volunteer who runs this group on the ground. He began working with over 500 volunteers a day, not only doing case management, but finding groups to rebuild and fundraise.

We took a group of 10 individuals, 3 of whom have never participated in mission work prior to this, to Joplin in September for the Labor Day weekend. We were able to work on and provide a loving touch to 4 families. We put a new roof on the Kruegers’ house in less than 13 hours. We worked with Jennifer Morris, who is a young military girl who during the storm was helping people to safety in the local Walmart – where 8 died – she then spent the next long hours helping to pull people from the debris, all the while not realizing her own home and neighborhood was destroyed. We helped her sheetrock her home, yes – she worked right alongside us - something we learned a lot about right here in Round Rock.  We pulled down a 60 foot fence with only 4 sets of hands and worked with the Coss’s, a determined family who refused to let the tornado take away their home. 

We are set to return on Dec 17-232011 that is right! the week before Christmas. Are you looking for an alternative gift to give or get? What better way to spend your vacation at Christmas time then helping someone else celebrate with a gift they will never forget.  [please contact us at: info@dropsofgrace.org for more information]

We are happy to arrange trips for you and your friends, your church or even just your family. The rebuild phase to bring Joplin back is expected to take many years. We have developed great relationships with the people of Joplin. They are true survivors with a deep sense of community – something drops of grace connects with. We plan to continue doing work there for several years.

BASTROP, Texas -

And finally, Bastrop, the wildfires of just a few weeks ago. While we were in Joplin, fires were burning here.  Bastrop will take several years to rebuild from these fires, as you heard earlier – it will take nearly 5 years! to get back to a semblance of normalcy, if they ever can. We are in current talks with ADRN to see where drops of grace will help with the rebuilds. Right now they are still in the response phase with movement to relief, the fires are contained. There are many places taking donations of property, but what they are asking for is money and gift cards to places like Home Deport or Lowes. I would like to encourage you to seek a place for you and your family to help in our area. There are places now that are sorting the items that were donated, trashing the items which should not have been donated and setting up a center for people to come and shop for what they have lost. It is unfathomable to many ofus what it would be like to loose everything! 

If you have items you want to donate please consider bringing them to the drops of grace garage sale, where we will sell the items and use the money to help with the domestic program right here. [If you are interested in future mission work here, please email us at: info@dropsofgrace.org]

drops of grace is here to help our neighbors. Never in our wildest dreams would we have thought that we would be working so hard in our own backyards, but I am so grateful to have the support of our community, our church, our friends and our family, I want you know we will continue to represent you and your money with honor and hard work. 100% of your donations go towards our mission programs as we are a 100% volunteer organization. 

God Bless.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

When the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down...

 Gregg, Phil and Karah at Mrs. Williams House

Imagine leaving the water running in the bathroom tub while you run to the kitchen to make a nice cup of hot tea. Then the phone rings and it’s your friend wanting to chat…so you do. You remember the water was left running in the tub, you rush back to find the water overflowing…water everywhere. What do you do to clean up the water? Grab a few towels, maybe a sponge, and quickly unplug the tub to let the water drain away, right?
Imagine now it’s raining and raining and raining, a tropical storm stalled above your community, above your home, and the rain doesn’t stop. Now imagine your home alongside a creek and the water keeps rising and rising. You can’t pull the plug and let water drain. The water rises quickly. What do you grab before you leave your home? Do you even have time to grab anything? You are helpless.

Now, imagine not having any or not enough insurance to clean up the mess; tear out the old and install the new walls, cabinets, floors and furniture. This is the predicament many folks are facing in Williamson County, Texas this year. The flood waters rose and receded but Tropical Storm Hermine left behind devastation and shattered lives.

Ms. W. of Round Rock, Texas backs up to Brushy Creek. She has lived in this home for over 20 years and had never had any flooding. But in the early morning hours of September 8, 2010 she had over 3.5 feet of water enter her home.

The mud was left on her floors, inside the cabinets, on her bed and in her dresser. Her walls were soaked. Everything had to come out. EVERYTHING! She has been living with her loving and supportive family but has not been able to sleep in her own home for over three months.

Volunteers from many agencies have banded together to begin the rebuild one home at a time. Through Wilco’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), drops of grace has partnered with Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) and the First United Methodist Church-Round Rock (FUMC-RR) to help rebuild Ms. Ws’ home. The sheetrock is now up, putting walls back which have been gone since the first week in September. Kitchen cabinets and flooring will be next and soon Ms. W. will be coming back to her own home.

On Dec 18, 2010, students from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, arrived a mere 18 hours after their last final from college, not for a vacation break, but to work with ADRN and drops of grace in the rebuild of Ms. Ws’ home. These incredible young adults are taking time from their Christmas break to come to Round Rock to volunteer. To give as Christ asked us to give, to give from their heart.

The students, led by Aaron Preston, Titan Christian Fellowship, organized this mission outreach just a few short weeks ago and put the word out that he was going to come to Round Rock. Abby, Anna, Mark, Mike, Jordan, Kyle and Matt all responded with a resounding YES...

Tired from their long trip; they hit the ground running and began hanging drywall as soon as they arrived. They did this with a smile on their face, joy in their heart, all side by side with and for people that were total strangers.

They attended church at FUMC-RR on Sunday and were recognized by Reverend Lee Trigg. He commended them all for hearing the call by Christ, to go and do, to say YES, to not only do good work, but to do Holy work.

We are each called by God to go and do. Saying yes is what God wants us to do.

drops of grace is proud to be able to assist in rebuilds after hurricanes in the gulf and to now be working right here in literally our own backyard. If you are interested in participating in the relief effort, with your hands, prayers, or financial support, please send an email to info@dropsofgrace.org to find out how you, your family or your organization can work with us to help rebuild Round Rock.

God Bless,