Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria.
August and September were devastating months for our nation, as Mother Nature took a toll on Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (and surrounding areas). When Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25th, it was clear that the damage would be extensive and the human need great. Ann Vazquez, President/CEO of Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, says, “After watching the news, I knew we had to do something to help alleviate some of the pain endured by those affected. As Christians, we are called to respond to human need, and especially at one of the most traumatic and challenging times of people’s lives. At Lutheran Foundation, we are blessed to have the financial capacity to step into that need.”
On August 29th, Lutheran Foundation’s Board of Directors convened to discuss how they could help support relief efforts. It was believed that Lutheran churches in the St. Louis area would feel compelled to respond to the crisis, so to encourage giving and maximize their impact, the Board voted to create a special, one-time matching fund of up to $400,000. Once Hurricanes Irma and Maria quickly followed suit, the magnitude of devastation became evident and the Board raised the maximum to $500,000.
Approximately 150 Lutheran congregations were invited to collect donations through the month of September, with a Lutheran Foundation match of up to $10,000 per church. Those donations would then be given to each congregation’s choice of one of the following four relief organizations who are engaged in both monetarily and emotionally/spiritually supporting those who are suffering:
- Upbring (formerly Lutheran Social Services of the South)
- LCMS Disaster Response
- LCMS – Texas District Disaster Relief
- ELCA Disaster Response
The response from St. Louis’ Lutheran community was overwhelming, with 66 congregations participating and $375,000 pre-matched dollars being raised. $300,000 of Lutheran Foundation’s matching funds have been given to the selected organizations, with the remaining $200,000 being allocated to assist with other disaster relief needs. This brings the total of relief funds donated through this challenge to approximately $875,000! For many congregations, their support won’t end here; they intend to provide ongoing support through volunteer opportunities and material donations.
“I really am humbled and amazed by the generosity of our Lutheran community,” says Vazquez. “At Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, we want to see the Church brought into the lives of hurting people and people included in the healing life of the Church, and this would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of our many Lutheran congregations. THANK YOU for your partnership with us in making this possible and please continue to pray for all who are still hurting.”