State: Missouri

Drivers with loads of hope

Convoy of Hope would be lost without its amazing team of drivers. You can’t have a convoy without anyone to drive it! Each day, our drivers are crossing the country with trucks full of disaster relief supplies, groceries, shoes and most of all — hope.

The drivers help us transport supplies for Community Events, Rural Compassion distributions and disaster responses (including last year’s Hurricanes Harvey and Irma responses). In 2017, they drove more than 414,000 miles for Convoy of Hope.

“These are some phenomenal people,” Convoy staff member, Debbie Gilleylen says. “You know how you always have people backstage getting the work done? These are those people.”

The majority of Convoy drivers are retired and drive for Convoy as volunteers. When we asked some of the drivers what their favorite part of driving for Convoy of Hope is, the answers were synonymous — the people we serve.

“My favorite is when you go and actually get to a place — the joy of the people that are there,” Driver, Richard Wilson, says. “It’s just a blessing to be a part of bringing them something they’re really anxious to receive and to be a part of what they’re doing in the community.”

Convoy of Hope honored its team of drivers and their spouses on Tuesday, January 30, with a lunch and celebration.

“We have a fantastic driving team and a lot of people don’t get to see each other but maybe once a year,” Transportation Director, Mike Coble says. “So, this is that one time a year that we get all the drivers in, as many of the spouses as we can and we get to show our appreciation to them and thank them for their sacrifice and all the hard work they’ve done.”

If you’re interested in joining our volunteer driving team, you can learn more at convoyofhope.org/drivingteam.

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Staff Spotlight / Volunteering

A Big Impact in Rural America

Cities, urban areas, metropoles — they’re full of community centers, places where groups can meet, those in need can receive help and communities can grow and thrive. So, where do you go in a small, rural town? The local church.

Convoy of Hope’s Rural Compassion Initiative reaches out to those in need through organizations local to the area. The local church often offers space, volunteers and a leader with a heart to help their community.

One of Convoy’s great partners is Tommy Hayes, the Assemblies of God North Texas Rural Ministry Coordinator. According to Hayes, many of the pastors and churches he works with already hold the desire to help their community, but lack the resources to do so. This is where Convoy of Hope comes in.

“The rural church doesn’t have much money to do anything, to buy these big resources,” Hayes said. “But Rural Compassion supplies the resources to be able to do this with very little and make a big impact.”

Convoy of Hope is proud to have partnered with more than 1,200 churches and organizations in 2017 around rural America. Through these churches, the Rural Compassion Initiative has been able to distribute more than 90,000 pairs of shoes, 1,000,000 meals and other resources to those in need.

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Rural Compassion

Rural Compassion combats poverty

Imagine being 12 years old, waking up early for school because you have to walk to get there. You squeeze into a pair of shoes that once fit, when you originally got them, but are now too tight. There’s a hole in one sole and a tear on the other, but they’re all you have and your family can’t afford a new pair. This is a real situation for too many kids living in rural America today.

In 2016, 15.8 percent of people living in Rural America were living in poverty. That is three percent more than the national average of 12.7. This high poverty rate is underlined with a greater lack of resources. For most living in rural areas, the closest career center or food bank may be hours away depending on how close the nearest metro area is. Many of those in need also do not have access to a car, making those resources even harder to get to.

With a lack of resources in smaller towns, many look to churches as community centers. Convoy of Hope’s Rural Compassion Initiative resources and partners with rural churches. Through training, mentoring and coaching, Convoy helps churches strengthen their communities. We do this through partnerships with community stakeholders, shoe and backpack distributions in schools and feeding programs.

If you have a heart for rural America, one of the best ways to help is to spread the word. When many think of high-poverty areas, they don’t picture “small town America.” Changing this preconception and helping inform others is big step a toward helping working poor families in need.

You can also donate to support Rural Compassion here.

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Join The Convoy / Program Updates / Rural Compassion

The Anatomy of a Disaster Response

The forecast calls for a storm — It could be anything from a hurricane to a tornado or even floods. But the type of disaster doesn’t matter, because the Convoy of Hope team is prepared to jump into action no matter the situation.

What happens behind-the-scenes in Convoy of Hope’s Disaster Services department? All year long, no matter the season, our staff and lead volunteers are constantly training and preparing for the next response.

Of course, there are disasters that catch all of us off guard — like earthquakes or tsunamis — but more often than not, disasters are weather-related in some way and that means we can see them coming, so to speak.

It all starts in the COHOC

Whether it’s a hurricane forming offshore, severe weather and tornadoes being forecasted or extensive rainfall leading to flooding, these types of disasters put our team into motion before they even occur. When the probability of weather-related events start increasing, we activate the Convoy of Hope Operations Center or the “COHOC” as we call it. While the COHOC exists within the walls of our World Headquarters in Springfield, Mo., technology today now allows us to have a virtual COHOC wherever we go.

Once activated, we are scouring multiple sources of data to mine out the latest intel to help us shape our potential response. At the same time, we are readying the appropriate trucks, supplies, equipment and personnel to respond,  should the situation escalate.

When we hit the road

If a response is warranted, we hit the road. The COHOC continues to provide support to the team while en route by providing the latest intel on the situation and identifying potential landing spots.

Once the deployment team is in full response mode in the field, support continues from the COHOC by seeking out the latest intel, but also by communicating with other parts of the organization to provide two-way communications to and from the field. It is important for the COHOC to act as the central hub of communication for the overall response.

In addition to the COHOC, we have a Mobile Operations Center and once deployed, it acts as our base for field operations. The Mobile Operations Center and the COHOC stay in constant contact for the duration of the response through cellular and satellite communication devices.

Cleaning and Debriefing

Once the response comes to an end and the team returns home, there is a plethora of tasks including cleaning and maintenance of equipment and even debriefing to refine our processes for the next response. Once all the work is done and things are back in place, we’re ready to do it all over again.

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Disaster Services / Staff Spotlight

Staff Spotlight: Bringing hope in the darkest hour

Growing up in Portugal from the age of six through high school, Chris Dudley has truly lived an international life. After high school, Chris lived in many places like Minnesota, Florida, Brussels and Denmark. Now, as Convoy of Hope’s Director of International Disaster Response, Chris continues to travel, preparing for and responding to disasters all over the world.

What brought you to Convoy of Hope?

The guy who started Convoy of Hope Europe had been a missionary in Portugal when I lived there. He has known me since I was six years old. So, he asked if I wanted to come and work with him.

How often do you travel?

About once a month. It depends on the year and what’s going on in the world. I go to all of our focus countries to help get prepositioned disaster relief supplies in-country, work with our staff to try to be prepared and then respond to disasters.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I get to eat all over the planet. I get to eat some of the strangest and grossest food at times, and some of the most delicious, amazing food at other times.

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten?

There’s nothing like Lebanese food. Lebanese food is absolutely amazing.

What are some of the biggest disasters you have been responded to? 

Haiti was the first really big one that I was a part of and I wasn’t even really on the disaster team at that point. I was still in Europe. So, I came over to represent the Europe office. And then, probably next to that, would be Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, which was a monster of a storm. I spent A LOT of time in the Philippines after that. I thought about becoming a citizen because it just would’ve made my life easier, going in and out of the airport in Manila.

What do people not realize about disaster response?

People, I think, watch TV and they see very sensational images that kind of pull at their heart strings, which it should. But, I think people who have never lived through a disaster don’t understand the depth of how it impacts an individual. Disaster can have a lifetime effect on people. So by us going in and helping people in sort of their darkest hour, for me, is really fulfilling.

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Staff Spotlight