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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Impressed by Samaritan's Purse

This has been a day like none other in my working life. Literally from the moment I walked into the office we've been focused on disaster relief and formulating our collective response to the needs of our fellow man in the Gulf region. In no other post during my working life have I seen a corporation literally drop what it was doing to help others with no expected return on investment. It was a day that makes you proud of where you work.

I have no desire to critical of anyone who is trying to do good work for those in need, but I'll let the facts speak for themselves as to how we ended the day as partners with Samaritan's Purse in our efforts.

We started the day with a meeting requested by some of our employees with ideas on how they could help those in need. Within a matter of minutes after that meeting, Mike Hyatt called in response to our mutual correspondence of the day before on various response options. His direction was clear: investigate all options (including sending bibles to those in need), assemble a committee, and make recommendations today.

Our people want to send direct material aid. This is in large part due to concerns over how little of post 9/11 monetary aid sent to the Red Cross actually ever made it to people in need (about 30%). We began looking for a distribution partner in the region and started with the Salvation Army. Their response was that they were still assessing the situation, and would we please call them back next Tuesday or Wednesday and they should know what they could do. Not thinking we should wait when people are hungry and homeless, we turned next to Samaritan's Purse and the Red Cross.

Calling the local Red Cross office in Nashville, the national help line, and literally every number we could find for them in the region, we actually spoke to only two live people. The national aid line said they could only accept monetary donations and our request to speak to a supervisor was unsuccessful. The Austin, Texas office was very helpful and gave us numbers to call at their Houston Astrodome response center that as of midnight are still giving us voice mail. In fairness, I'm sure they're busy.

During the mid afternoon period we received a call back from Samaritan's Purse. They have a disaster relief team with two semi trailers of aid and supplies in Mobile already, along with members of the Rapid Response Team from Billy Graham Ministries. They would gladly help us administer our employee matching contribution program, and called back again within 10 minutes to say that they would gladly distribute our bibles provided we could deliver all 100,000 in stages as they requested. They seemed delighted, as the bibles would aid their focus to minister to people's physical needs, and when appropriate speak to them about whose name in which they meet those needs.

We're still hoping to hear from the Red Cross on Friday and coordinate direct material aid. More on that as we know it.

So, if anyone wonders why we're partnering with Samaritan's Purse in our disaster response efforts, I offer the facts to speak for themselves. My first experience with this group has been more than impressive.

Jim