HARRISBURG (BRN) – Floods, winter storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, thunderstorms, and droughts are just a few natural disasters that Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents must be prepared to face, according to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. 

But, truly, how prepared can one be in the face of a disaster? 

Locally in Pennsylvania and South Jersey, there are 600 volunteers a part of Baptist Resource Network (BRN) Disaster Relief who are trained and ready to be deployed the moment a disaster hits. These volunteers represent 95 local churches and, on a national scale, indicate Southern Baptists’ commitment to serving those in need.  

Pennsylvania/South Jersey Disaster Relief is a part of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief’s (SBDR) Region three, which is comprised of the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, Baptist Convention of New York, and Baptist Churches of New England. 

Disaster Relief (DR) Volunteers in Pennsylvania/South Jersey may respond to disasters within PA or New Jersey or be called to respond in other states or Canada. 

Along with meeting physical needs at every disaster, BRN disaster relief volunteers strive to have an eternal impact, sharing the love of Christ in every action and the truth of Christ at any given opportunity.  

“There are an estimated 14 million people within Pennsylvania/South Jersey who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Moreover, vital statistics indicate that every 4.2 minutes, one person in PA/SJ dies and enters an eternity without Jesus,” said Barry Whitworth, executive director of the BRN. 

He continued: “These statistics break our hearts. We are so thankful for how Disaster Relief opens doors for sharing the Gospel.” 

Sustaining the longterm  impact of DR in PA/SJ 

In an effort to sustain and support the eternal impact disaster relief has in Pennsylvania/South Jersey, the BRN Disaster Relief team is launching a capital campaign to build a new storage warehouse and ministry center in Winfield, Pennsylvania, on the property of Winfield Baptist Church, where already several disaster relief units are stored. 

The addition of this storage warehouse would provide protection from the environment for many of DR’s essential units, tools, and equipment. It would also provide another space for training and mission team stays. 

“This campaign will allow PA/SJ Disaster Relief the ability to build, manage and outfit its own Disaster Relief facility. The facility will allow for the continued growth and gospel influence of the disaster relief work in and across our region,” said Kenton Hunt, PA/SJ Disaster Relief Director. 

Currently, PA/SJ Disaster Relief owns 23 units that can be deployed with volunteers locally and around the United States. This equipment includes: two feeding units, eight recovery units, three shower/laundry units, one command/communication unit, two western shelters, one fuel trailer, one pressure wash trailer, one passenger van, one water purification unit, two auxiliary trailers and one 10K generator. 

Many of these units, if not all, require regular weather maintenance. The addition of a warehouse would allow BRN DR to protect these units from poor weather conditions and prolong their life.  

The warehouse would also provide additional training space for DR volunteers and necessary accommodations for mission teams, which would increase local church involvement and deepen connections with fellow state conventions. 

“Disaster Relief is a great way to be the hands and feet of Jesus. The work of DR helps people who have an immediate need and connects them to local churches,” said Charles Blachford, senior pastor at Bux-Mont Baptist Church in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. 

He continued: “We have hosted DR [trainings] at our church and have had several members volunteer over the past month because the work is so important.” 

Building Overview and Cost 

Once built, the Disaster Relief Ministry Facility will be a two-story, 60’ by 100’ building that will be used for training, lodging, planning, storage, asset maintenance, and vehicle storage. It will have insulated walls and ceiling, heated floors, floor space for two semi-loads of pallets and about 12 trailers, and 14’ high pass-thru doors. 

In addition to the vehicle storage area, the DR building will have seven other rooms, which will provide training and group accommodations. These accommodations will include bunks for 16 individuals on the second floor and cot space for an additional 16 on the first floor, bathrooms on both floors, a kitchenette on the first floor and a small office. 

To make this warehouse dream possible, PA/SJ Disaster Relief is looking to raise $500,000. Phase one of this project got underway in 2023 with concepting, pre-planning and receiving approval from the BRN’s Executive Board. 

DR Campaign Guide

Now, in 2024, the goal is to raise $360,000 to prepare for the building’s construction and other building essentials, such as a concrete pad, a well, and septic. Construction will continue into 2025 with the completion of interior construction of rooms and office space. This phase will require $100,000 to complete. 

In 2026, the project will enter phase four and utilize $40,000 to purchase a forklift, vehicle lift, and pave a parking lot around the building. The fifth and final phase will ensure the longevity of the warehouse by establishing an endowment fund to ensure continued DR funding for the future. The goal for this special fund is $1 million. 

To make this a smooth, cooperative effort PA/SJ Disaster Relief is seeking 300 donors to give $1,500 per a year for three years. Donors can give based on an individual status, as a couple, small group, or church.  

“Disasters happen spontaneously and are very seldom planned. When disasters happen, we’re an organization – Southern Baptist Disaster Relief – that is there at the beginning. A disaster happens today, we’re going to try and be there tomorrow,” said Hunt. 

He continued: “You don’t necessarily go into a response knowing all the details, so that involves walking by faith.” 

Won’t you consider walking in faith with our PA/SJ Disaster Relief team as they look forward to advancing the gospel for years to come through meeting physical and spiritual needs amidst disaster? 

To donate to the Disaster Relief Ministry Facility Building Campaign visit brnunited.org/dr or mail a check payable to “Baptist Resource Network” at 4620 Fritchey Street, Harrisburg, PA 17109. Check memo should read “DR Building Fund.” For more information on the building project, please contact Kenton Hunt, PA/SJ Disaster Relief Director, at kentonh@brnunited.org.

View DR Building Campaign Guide