HARRISBURG (BRN) – On Sunday, Oct. 23, Baptist Resource Network (BRN) Director of Disaster Relief Kenton Hunt received the Shirley Norman Award at the Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (PA VOAD) annual meeting at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
The Shirley Norman Award is awarded every year by the Pennsylvania VOAD in honor of the organization’s first Vice President. The recipient is a VOAD member who exhibits Norman’s spirit and commitment of service to others and to the advancement of VOAD throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This award comes only a few months after Hunt, who currently serves as the Pennsylvania VOAD president, and the PA VOAD team won the State/Territory VOAD of the Year Award during the National VOAD Conference in Baltimore back in May.
“We have lots of exposure with Pennsylvania emergency management and a very good relationship. So, through those relationships I hear about things and needs that happen in certain communities, and when that happens, I can pass that need on to a church that we may have in in that area,” said Hunt.
As a whole, Hunt reported that there are nearly 30 disaster/crisis relief organizations in Pennsylvania a part of the state’s VOAD, with all 50 states having their own chapter. Some of these commonwealth organizations include Keystone Emergency Management Association (KEMA), Pennsylvania Emergency Management Associations (PEMA) and The Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.
Leading up to the national VOAD awards distribution, the PA VOAD team completed a pilot program known as Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organization Repairs (or VALOR, for short). Through this program, the Pennsylvania VOAD partnered with the state to provide materials for relief projects in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
That pilot program (which will continue under a different name) was funded by the state legislature in June to the tune of $5 million, which Kenton says will be available to help qualifying residents–and BRN Disaster Relief (including our affiliated churches) – buy materials needed for disaster relief efforts.
“These materials, actually, are bought by the helping organizations like our churches, so it’s not just BRN and disaster relief, but because we are the Baptist Resource Network that extends to our congregations.”
Hunt further called on churches to be a part of this process by reminding them of the connection disaster relief projects often have to the spreading of the gospel.
“I don’t want our pastors or churches thinking that disaster relief is something that happens someplace else, because disasters happen locally, very close. In every disaster, there are things that God wants to accomplish, and one of those things is He wants people to place their trust in Him. We know that comes through the preaching of the gospel, the hearing of the gospel and the responding in faith to the message of the gospel.
“So, the work of disaster relief opens the door for us to deliver that message. It becomes a circle – we train volunteers from our churches, they go out and do the work and share the gospel, people come to the Lord and get connected to our churches, where they become disaster relief volunteers.”
Through God’s faithfulness, this cycle has now been extended to the state level as the BRN served as the fiduciary between the state and the PA VOAD.
“We had a system that worked out well. [We had] to pay the bills for these materials and then we had to do an audit at the end, so all of our bookkeeping records and all that had to show up in a very well organized fashion. But Debbie (The BRN’s bookkeeper) was a champ and they were quite impressed,” voiced Hunt.
Coming full circle, Hunt recognized that it was through these local and state-level relationships that Pennsylvania’s VOAD caught the nation’s attention.
“So, that kind of engagement outside the walls of our church does help us in our mandate to make disciples. It helps us build relationships with people in the community – it’s like Jesus in Matthew five, where he walks into a community, he heals people, he meets real human needs and he preaches the gospel of the Kingdom.
“That’s not the intent of the Commonwealth, but they’re willing to partner with us in order to accomplish a humanitarian need, and we’re willing to meet that humanitarian need because it helps us to build a relationship and to share eternal hope.”
For more information on Disaster Relief or how you can volunteer visit the BRN’s Disaster Relief webpage.