The 'United Nations of disaster relief'
For every hurricane, earthquake or flood, there is help: food, bottled water, crews of volunteers nailing shingles to brand new roofs.
What even grateful recipients of that aid might not realize, the Associated Press reports, is that much of it comes from an unlikely hodgepodge of religious groups who put aside their doctrinal differences and coordinate their efforts as soon as the wind starts blowing.
Southern Baptists cook meals from Texas to Massachusetts. Seventh-day Adventists dispense aid from makeshift warehouses that can be running within eight hours. Mennonites haul away debris, Buddhists provide financial aid and chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team counsel the traumatized and grieving.
This "juice and cookies fellowship," as one organizer calls it, is mostly invisible to the public, but it provides interfaith infrastructure for disaster response around the country that state and federal officials could scarcely live without.
"Think of us as the United Nations of disaster relief," said Diana Rothe-Smith, executive director of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, the main umbrella group for coordinating emergency response from private agencies.