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Brian Frick is the Associate for Camp and Conferences Ministries with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He has been involved in camp and conference ministry since high school. For the past ten years, Brian has served as program director of Johnsonburg Center in New Jersey, Westminster Woods in California, and Heartland Center in Missouri.

Camp and conference ministry compliments and partners with other ministry aspects of our church to foster faith development and reflection. As our communities and our church changes, our ministries need to grow and adapt with creative and emergent programming and leadership to meet new realities.

These blogs entries, though varied, are intended to spur thought and conversation around the opportunities and challenges before us.

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October 13, 2011

Deepening PDA Partnerships with FEMA and AmeriCorps

Helping those who need it most

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At the end of September I was invited by John Robinson, Rick Turner and Randy Ackley from PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance) to join them at the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) offices in Washington, DC to discuss ways our PC(USA) camp and conference centers could augment their mission in disaster aid and recovery.  What followed was a fruitful conversation with many possibilities.

PDA has developed a great working relationship with FEMA through their work in village hosting and disaster coordination, mainly through the response to Hurricane Katrina.  FEMA likes to work with known reliable partners and consults with PDA quite frequently.  What followed was some what if’s.

What if we were able to designate specific camp and conference centers as host sites for AmeriCorps when they are re-located to help with disaster recovery efforts?  Currently AmeriCorps groups are often housed in hotels during disasters which is very expensive for the government, through FEMA to finance.  If we could identify specific partner sites across the country that are located within reasonable distances to potential disaster areas, we could support these AmeriCorps needs.  It would also help us attract and get a lasting relationship by hosting AmeriCorps groups when there is no emergency.  David Gill shares “we have been hosting AmeriCorps groups for years.  They are hard working and reliable.  Recently we have been contacted to host more than one group per year so the demand is definitely there to find more sites to host AmeriCorps volunteers.”  Your site could get that relationship!  There is an outside chance that AmeriCorps/FEMA might even be able to provide funds to improve infrastructure so you have appropriate housing for AmeriCorps!

Another what if revolved around temporary housing of disaster victims.  If some sites have open fields they are not using but could be converted to disaster recovery housing areas, there is a demand for that also.  

With both of these options, there are many implications for the host sites to evaluate.  What would the time commitment be?  How many beds and buildings would we need to dedicate to disasters?  How would we notify guest groups of our relationship to warn them that their event might be cancelled and re-scheduled if we are called on to help in a disaster?  How do we not over commit and lose return groups because they find alternate retreat sites?  How do we separate disaster housing from our summer camp and other programming to keep it safe?

FEMA and AmeriCorps do reimburse all of your costs and cover the rates you would typically charge guest groups so you would benefit from the relationship, as long as it did not have a lasting effect on your regular and returning guest groups.

Many questions but many possibilities too!  We’ll share more at the PCCCA (Presbyterian Church Camp and Conference annual conference at the end of October at Mo Ranch.  If you would like more information and for your site to be considered, please contact me at

Tags: americorps, camp and conference, disaster assistance, fema, gamc, pcusa, pda