How Hurricane Katrina Changed Everything

When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana coast and decimated everything in its path, everything changed. For our nation, seldom before had we seen such devastation — streets became rivers, homes were washed away, and more than 1,000 people lost their lives. The way groups responded to disasters changed everywhere, too, and that included Convoy of Hope.

As Katrina gained intensity in the Gulf of Mexico, it was clear the storm would be bad. But no one expected the wide-reaching damage Katrina would inflict. The morning after the hurricane made landfall, Convoy of Hope employees arrived at headquarters to find every phone ringing off their hooks. Convoy was a much smaller organization in 2005, with a staff of only 50 people. It was clear that this response was an “all-hands on deck” situation. 

Family and friends of staff members arrived to help, and phone banks were set up on folding tables in every available space. Volunteers answered phone calls all day, every day, for weeks. Calls came in from volunteers, donors, people needing help, churches asking for assistance, and even those in search of lost relatives.The answering machine crashed immediately, leading us to take messages on paper and run them around the building to the right person.

Staff from across departments were deployed to Mississippi and Louisiana to assist our two-person Disaster Services team. Before this time, we had never had more than one point of distribution (POD) running at a time. Now, we had several scattered throughout Louisiana and Mississippi.

This response changed Convoy of Hope in fundamental ways. Systematically, Convoy of Hope was recreated. Longtime Convoy staff member Randy Rich reflected on a time during the response when the team took a moment from the hustle and bustle. “We sat down and reinvented Convoy on a whiteboard,” he said. “The team updated processes for disaster response and developed additional roles that new staff or volunteers would fill.”

As our disaster response team grew, so did our ability to help others. Our response to Hurricane Katrina lasted for two years. Nearly 1,000 truckloads of relief supplies were delivered and distributed to families in need. For the next four years, we held Community Events across the Gulf Coast, specifically helping areas affected by Katrina. 

In our 25 years of existence, Convoy of Hope has responded to more than 400 disasters around the world. The people we met and the lessons we learned during Katrina redefined the way we would respond to disasters from then on. But the one thing that has never changed is the incredible importance of kindness and support from people like you. We couldn’t have served so many without the thousands of phone calls, mass amounts of volunteers, and incredible donors that saw those in need and offered their help.

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Disaster Services / Program Updates / Volunteering

Treating others as a Guest of Honor

Convoy of Hope began hosting Community Events 25 years ago. Since then, we’ve helped thousands of Guests of Honor — from New York to Hawaii, Washington to Florida, and everywhere in between — in more than 1,200 cities in the United States. 

Guests of Honor are our neighbors, co-workers, the people we see at church each Sunday, the grocery check-out clerk, or the person asking for help on the corner. They are the families who need a hand-up during difficult times, individuals living on the fringes of poverty, and those who are barely making it paycheck to paycheck. They are people we all know and love and want to help. 

They are people like Carly. It had already been a long day for Carly before she attended the Wichita Convoy of Hope Community Event with her family. She’d worked eight hours at one job; after the event, she would be going to her second job. 

Carly and her family have attended the Community Event for four years in a row. She and her kids go to every area: haircuts, shoes, Kids Zone to receiving backpacks, and groceries at the end. The haircuts are particularly of value. The only time Carly’s daughters receive haircuts are when they attend Community Events.

When asked why she keeps returning, she says, “Convoy is one of the most understanding and respectful organizations. They treat you like a person. Like you’re just another person that deserves something. They don’t look down on you. They don’t treat you different. They don’t talk to you like you’re a 5-year old kid. You don’t get that. People in our situations don’t get that.” 

Her entire family feels connected to the event. In fact, her oldest daughter decided to be a volunteer this year. “We’re hoping by next year, we won’t need the services, and then we can all come back and volunteer,” Carly says. “They’ve helped us, so we try to give back if we can.”  

Carly and her family are striving to be like the Camposes — Guests of Honor who went to their first event several years ago when they were having a tough time. The flyer they received highlighted free services that they needed.

“When I came to the Convoy of Hope event, and every five or six meters is one person, smiling and saying, ‘Welcome. You’ve been welcome. God bless you.’ Wow. This is what I needed,” said Roberto Campos. “I believe the people received me and this changed my life.” 

Since then, the entire Campos family has volunteered at their local Community Event for five consecutive years. Coming full circle from receiving to giving back — showing other Guests of Honor in their community the same level of dignity and respect they were shown. 

Since 1994, Convoy of Hope Community Events have served more than 2 million Guests of Honor around the United States — people like Carly and the Camposes — who simply need hope in a time of need. To learn more about Community Events, visit convoyofhope.org/events

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25 Stories That Shaped Convoy of Hope / Community Outreach / Field Story / Inspiration / Join the Convoy / Volunteering

NOAA predicts increased chance of above-average hurricane season

As we enter peak hurricane season, it’s important to be prepared. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that conditions are more favorable for above-average hurricane activity this fall.

In May, NOAA announced a “near-normal” hurricane season, with only 9 to 15 named storms. However, on August 8, NOAA updated their prediction to 17 named storms, 2 to 4 of which they believe could develop into major hurricanes.

It is important to be prepared and have a plan in case evacuations are announced or you need to take shelter during a storm. You can learn more about hurricane preparedness at ready.gov/hurricanes.

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Disaster Services