CROP Hunger Walk Recruiter Discovers CWS’s Role in Disaster Recovery

Julie Phillips | April 25, 2014

Julie Phillips

Julie Phillips

I’m passionate about ending hunger – and about being a mom, and being involved in the community.  This story is about how all those pieces of my life are fitting together – and yes, Church World Service is an important part of my story!

My husband Scott, our son Joshua and I live in Longmont, Colo., where Scott pastors Westview Presbyterian Church.  Until five years ago, I was on the Volunteer Center team at United Way of Larimer County.  When Joshua was born I stopped working there, but I kept volunteering in the CROP Hunger Walk.  I also volunteer in our congregation’s food pantry, which serves between 250 and 280 households twice a month.

Dennis Hurianek, who co-chairs the Boulder Walk with Phil Goerner, belongs to our church.  In January 2013, Dennis invited me to help recruit more congregations for the Walk.  I could manage that and still care for Joshua – I usually just bring him along with me!  He knows about all of mommy’s projects. And it was a chance for me to use my professional skills and get back into the community.

I find it exciting to talk with people in the churches about why we walk.  I have used CWS materials to teach children, youth and adults about global and local hunger and about the importance of clean water.

The Boulder Walk committee was planning to show the documentary “A Place at the Table” and offer other hunger awareness activities in preparation for our October 20, CROP Hunger Walk when, in September, the floods thwarted those educational efforts.

Heavy rain and flooding affected tens of thousands of Colorado households from Fort Collins to Canon City, including Longmont.  One family in our congregation was forced from their home.  Our congregants helped this and other households clean up after the flood waters receded.

Meanwhile, the Boulder Walk committee recognized the challenge of continuing with the Walk and raising funds in the wake of a local disaster, but we knew how important it was to press ahead.

When I learned that CWS had provided hundreds of CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets for Colorado flood survivors, I arranged for a bucket to be displayed at the Walk.  It was something CWS was doing right here in our county, and I wanted people to see that!

The Walk raised more than $30,000 for local and CWS global anti-hunger work.  Walkers also made a special contribution to the Boulder County Long-Term Flood Recovery Group to help flood survivors.

After the walk I began working part time at Foothills United Way in its Volunteer Connection program.  Through that work I became involved in the Boulder County Long-Term Flood Recovery Group and eventually co-chair of its volunteer coordination subcommittee.  We connect volunteer work teams with projects and recruit local congregations to host volunteer teams that come from out of town to help with post-flood cleanup, repairs and rebuilding.

To my surprise and delight, as I became involved in flood recovery, I started hearing right away about Church World Service!  I learned that in the wake of a disaster, the agency offers not only CWS Kits and Blankets but also training, ongoing mentoring and small grants to local long-term recovery groups.

CWS held “Recovery Tools and Training” workshops in Weld, Boulder and Larimer counties in December.  Joining CWS speakers were presenters from the United Methodist Committee on Relief, on disaster case management; Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, on volunteer housing and emotional and spiritual care; World Renew, on needs assessment, and Lutheran Disaster Response, on construction and volunteer management.

I knew about all these groups, but was not familiar with their expertise in disaster recovery. I have been back in touch with all of them since the workshops!  I’ve especially enjoyed getting to know Presbyterian Disaster Assistance better, including PDA’s particular expertise in volunteer hosting and management, connecting volunteers to long-term recovery organizations, and disaster preparedness training.

I’m loving all that I’m doing right now!  I’m using so many different aspects of my skills, relationships and experience.  I’m excited to tell CROP Hunger Walk congregations that CWS also supports flood recovery and to encourage them to host volunteer work teams.

There are still so many people affected by the flood who need help – and there’s still so much hunger in Boulder County.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk with any congregation or community group about how they can help, and about CWS’s contribution to both flood recovery and hunger relief in our communities.