Church’s support efforts portend sorrowful need

Wheelbarrows were one of the unexpected items to arrive at the Keizer Church of Christ in a delivery from Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Efforts.

In less than 48 hours, congregants of the Keizer Church of Christ turned their sanctuary into an arm of support for evacuees of the fires raging along the Cascade Mountain range. 

Volunteers were prepping to receive the first round of visitors Monday, Sept. 15. A quick tour of the available supplies was evidence of the harrowing need Oregonians are facing while the fires burn. 

“We had a list of some of the things that were on the truck, but it wasn’t until we started unloading it that we realized how different this is going to be,” said Colleen Busch, spokesperson for the church. 

In addition to hundreds of boxes containing food, personal care items and baby items, the 51-foot semi from the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort (CCDRE) contained buckets full of cleaning supplies, gallons of bleach, long-handled scrubbing brushes, rakes and wheelbarrows. 

Those in need of assistance can visit the church, 5405 Ridge Drive N.E., Mondays and Wednesdays between 10 a.m. and noon or 4 and 7 p.m. or Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Target donated a dedicated phone to the church’s response effort, call 971-375-5285 outside of operating hours. Busch said church elders are making themselves available for counseling, those in need can call the same number to reach a church elder. 

“Disaster Relief an effort we’ve supported as a congregation in the past, but we’d only seen what they do on slides during presentations as (CCDRE representatives) toured congregations to raise money,” said Darren Williamson, who has organized the relief effort for the Keizer church. Right before he was interviewed, Williamson was on the phone with a pastor from Mill City and planning how the churches could partner to assist those who lost everything in the fires. 

Colleen Busch, spokesperson for Keizer Church of Christ, unpacks the contents of a clean-up bucket.

The whole operation got underway about five days prior to the delivery Saturday, Sept. 12. The northwest director of CCDRE reached out to ask if the Keizer church wanted to be part of the relief efforts. After a meeting of the church elders and a night of prayer, Keizer Church of Christ agreed to accept the delivery of relief goods. 

“The truck arrived at 10 a.m. and we had 28 volunteers who helped unload it in an hour,” Williamson said. A donated forklift from Keizer’s Herc Rentals helped make the task easier. 

The church can also accept donations from outside organizations to support relief for evacuees. 

A congregant of Portland-based Southwest Church of Christ, who lived through a fire that destroyed her home, sent along more wheelbarrows with notes of encouragement from her church’s youth group attached. 

“She also donated hard candy so people can suck on those while they clean up. She said one of the hardest things about her situation was the smell of burned plastic,” said Bob Busch, another congregant. 

Like Colleen, Williamson said he was set on his heels when he realized how many aspects of the potential need the CCDRE delivery covered. 

“We know people are going to need diapers and food, but then you realize someone is going to have to clean up their garage that burned down,” Williamson said. “So we have all these things we never thought about sending to a disaster relief area before.” 

Members of the church responded in such overwhelming numbers that Williamson doesn’t foresee the need for additional help to assist in the operation, but Busch said that the donations from CCDRE will keep coming until the need subsides. 

“They’ve told us they are in this with us for as long as they are needed,” Busch said.