Community

Hurricane Harvey has left Texas and emergency relief efforts have mostly ended. Now, the long term relief that will help rebuild the communities of the Texas gulf coast gets underway.

One of the organizations offering aid is Louisville-based Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). The PDA’s director, the Reverend Dr. Laurie Kraus, and her team, arrived in Texas Tuesday night.

Kraus spoke with me via cell phone about what they did when they first arrived and how going through a hurricane and needing relief changed her perspective on how to help.

You can listen to our conversation in the media player above.

On first steps to helping with Harvey cleanup:

“We’ve been meeting with our organization — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance works through our regional church bodies so that they can work on the ground with other people. So, our first step was really sitting with them doing evaluation of what the capabilities and the needs are in the affected area.”

On what she learned from surviving Hurricane Andrew in South Florida:

“One of the things that changed my perspective was the sending of donations, which before I’d been exposed to this, I always thought ‘well that’s so great that people want to send clothes and other items.’ Having been on the receiving end of a bunch of donated clothes — we had two semi-tractor trailers in our parking lot at our small church for over two years. And for the first four months, five months after the hurricane, both of our halls — the only two places we could gather as a community — were filled with used clothes. And in the end we ended up shipping those things to a rag trade in South America where they tore them up and made them into quilts. So we couldn’t even use most of that stuff.

“So having been on the receiving end of that, I am really aware of why it’s super unhelpful to send unsolicited donations. And why, even though it seems less personal, sending cash is the most important thing. And sending it through a reputable agency that you know is working and empowering the local community.”

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for WFPL News.