St. Philip’s Disaster Relief (SPDR)

Teams of volunteers, with varied skills, respond to natural disasters helping victims rebuild their homes and lives. Efforts range from day trips to week-long trips. Relief work has been done in Mississippi, Texas, New Jersey, and Florida following hurricanes; Minnesota, Iowa, Tennessee, North Dakota, Colorado, and Missouri following flooding; Colorado following wildfires; and Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin following tornadoes.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 spring SPDR trip to Texas, to assist those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, was cancelled. Despite the many disasters in the last several months, the COVID physical distancing requirements made normal travel and lodging arrangements impossible for SPDR team members which led to no plans made for a fall trip in 2020.

Texas Winter Storm

February 16, 2021
Over the 15 years of the SPDR ministry, we have met many individuals in the southern states that have become our friends and partners. We have also met many disaster survivors that we have assisted to rebuild their homes and lives. For us living in the north country, we know how to survive the cold winters. For our friends in the south it is a real challenge when severe cold weather strikes. Iced roadways, no electricity leading to no heat and lighting, frozen water pipes and and in many cases, lack of food. We ask your prayers for everyone, everywhere suffering from this ongoing weather system that is bringing such hardship to so many.

February 21, 2021 (From Renee’s Facebook page)
It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours. It started in the afternoon after seeing a Facebook post from our Houston friend/partner, Deb Grant, about the shortage of plumbing supplies in Texas due to all of the frozen water pipes last week. Mike and I had a short, social-distanced meeting to figure out what SPDR could do to help. That resulted in a Menards shopping trip yesterday, a Home Depot shopping trip this morning, then cutting pipe and packaging everything in Mike’s garage, an afternoon trip to Menards for more supplies, a stop at Premier Industries (where I work) to weigh the packages (50 and 90 pounds!), a stop at Cartridge World (my other job) to get the UPS shipping labels (Thanks, Jason and Lindsey for the shipping help!), and then a final stop at the UPS facility in Maple Grove to drop off 500 ft. of CPVC and copper tubing and 1040 fittings that should arrive in Houston on Thursday.

February 27, 2021
The plumbing supplies are moving quickly in Texas. They arrived at Deb Grant’s house late yesterday afternoon and by 9:30 this morning a portion of them were in the back of a plumber’s vehicle who is working through First Lutheran Church in Galveston. Within two hours we received a forwarded message from Deb that said, “Hi Deb – This is Gloria (see photo). She is a single mom who also has her elderly mother living with her. Because of the generosity of St. Philip’s, she got the needed parts that prevented her house from having water. Now…she sees the end in sight! Thank you!!!” Also, according to Deb, two other houses are being worked on today in Galveston because they now have the parts needed.

March 7, 2021
The other portion of the plumbing supplies were transported from Deb’s garage (and her ingenious golf cart holding rack) by our ERD partner, Pastor Stacy Stringer, to the River Oaks neighborhood in Conroe, TX. This low-lying neighborhood was severely flooded by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. In October 2019, a SPDR team helped restore five houses here and another team returned a month later to complete the work in one of those houses. On the first trip, one of the homeowners we helped was Wendy. On the second trip, Wendy helped us out by bringing hot chocolate and coffee to our worksite every morning. She is now helping her neighbors by letting them know about the plumbing supplies and providing a place for them to come and pick up what they need. Thank you, Wendy!

March 8, 2021
Expressions of Gratitude

From the Reverend Stacy Stringer – Episcopal Diocese of Texas: “Thank you for sending your JOY down to Texas!”

From Wendy – River Oaks Drive resident: “We are very grateful for our Minnesota friends for always stepping up and helping us. During the Texas winter storms many of my neighbors had problems with their pipes bursting just like everyone else In Texas. We are thankful for the parts of plumbing sent to us by our great friends in Minnesota.”

And from Deb Grant – retired ELCA pastor, partner, and friend: “Water always finds a way. Love speeds the journey. I am grateful for the generosity of those who are willing to be love’s aquaduct. These plumbling supplies were sent from St. Philip’s Disaster Relief in Minnesota to friends helping neighbors in Galveston and Houston. Water always finds a way. Love speeds the journey. The journey continues…”

Desk Project

In late October, a decision was made to use some of the SPDR resources and skills to help students that are distancing learning due by building desks that would give them a dedicated place to study at home. Local schools were contacted and administrators from schools in Fridley, Spring Lake Park, and Columbia Heights requested a total of 50 desks. Watch for updates here on the project.

November 4
After reviewing several different desk designs, a fold up desk was chosen. The first prototype desk was created by one of the SPDR team members. That desk was reviewed and is being refined to ensure the desk is sturdy and easy to fold up. Two different heights of desks will be built.

December 1
With about a dozen work sessions at St. Philip’s and some work at home, 33 volunteers completed 50 desks that are ready for distribution. The work included a lot of sawing, sanding, drilling, painting, and assembly both inside and outside – in temperatures that ranged from 70 to 30 degrees, but no snow. And some winning bids on an online auction resulted in 80 student chairs to go with the desks.

December 18
Seven social workers from the five Fridley schools, North Park in Columbia Heights, and Westwood in Spring Lake Park stopped in at St. Philip’s on December 7 to pick up desks, chairs, and some school supplies that they then delivered to their students. Since then we’ve received some thank yous and photos. One of the students wrote, “I LOVE the desk!!! Thank you, it’s definitely going to help me get some work done.” Since the weather and COVID-19 restrictions make it difficult to continue to build desks the way the first 50 were built, we are looking into alternate plans.