Serving meals in Galveston, Texas, USA
Capps hands out a meal from a Salvation Army mobile canteen in Galveston, Texas, USA. Photo courtesy John Capps
When a fire claimed the life of John Capps’ mother and destroyed his home 50 years ago, a sergeant in the Salvation Army was the first person to offer comfort, bringing clean clothes and spending money.
All these years later, Capps, a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Morehead City-Noon, North Carolina, USA, is eager to give back.
He and his wife, chair of the local advisory board of the Salvation Army, are part of a team of volunteers from all over the country serving meals from mobile canteens to residents of Galveston, Texas, which was ravaged by Hurricane Ike in mid-September.
“We are here for the same reason we are in Rotary: to serve other people,” says Capps, a past district governor. “This was a great opportunity to Make Dreams Real .”
John and his wife, Jane, have met more than a dozen other Rotarians among the Salvation Army disaster response teams. Capps has been wearing his “Rotary at Work” shirt, making him easy for other Rotarians to spot.
One of those is Ginger Virkler, a member of the Rotary Club of Greater Flint Sunrise, Michigan.
When she arrived on 5 October, “the area was devastated,” Virkler says. “I talked to a lady yesterday from Michigan whose entire 250-unit apartment building is condemned.”
Virkler, who has served on disaster teams in Flint, adds that helping on the national response effort has been “rewarding” and “something I’ve always wanted to do.”
During their two-week stint, the volunteers stay in a makeshift camp on the outskirts of Galveston’s airport that is part of a larger complex housing all emergency response personnel. The volunteers sleep in bunk beds in dormitories fashioned from shipping crates, 24 volunteers to a crate, Capps says.
The Salvation Army teams’ primary focus of late has been to provide two hot meals a day, lunch and dinner, at 30 locations in the Galveston area. Other teams have set up in store parking lots or delivered mops and cleaning kits door-to-door.
Capps says Galveston residents are returning and starting the hard work of cleaning up. Contractors have set up a six-block-long dump for debris, with separate areas for electronic appliances, hazardous materials, and other waste.
Power had just returned to the airport shortly after the volunteers arrived, and a few areas of town are still without electricity.
“A major thing the Salvation Army is doing is providing spiritual care,” Capps says. “We’re giving people a hug, hearing their stories, letting them know people care. That’s as important as the food.”
Learn how Rotarians can help following a disaster.
Learn more about Salvation Army disaster relief teams.