Bill Elliott, the volunteer Disaster Relief Coordinator at Saint James Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, began volunteering with Lutheran Congregational Services in 2007. He has organized numerous volunteer opportunities including two mission trips to Ocean Springs Mississippi to help with recovery from hurricane Katrina, CPR training, shelter evacuation training, and local disaster response.

When an entire Philadelphia apartment building went up in flames on Thanksgiving morning in 2009, Bill and the volunteers from Saint James were ready to help. They moved furniture, held fundraisers and donated items that the victims needed. Bill worked with victims through February 2010, ensuring that their needs were met and using his trailer to deliver new furniture and supplies. The city of Philadelphia honored the volunteers at a recognition ceremony.

After Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, Saint James helped out locally once again, cleaning up six homes that had been badly damaged by flood. Bill also helps out with the annual Oktoberfest at Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Glenside which raises money for Lutheran Disaster Response.

Bill says that in all these situations camaraderie developed among the volunteers and the victims. “I had lady call me a couple of weeks ago and thank me again for cleaning up her house,” he said. “I feel good about what we’re doing and I like working with people.”

When Bill isn’t helping to respond to a disaster, he is learning and preparing for future situations. He arranged for members of Saint James to attend numerous trainings, including a simulation of a plane crash at the Philadelphia airport. They practiced evacuating people from the airport to area hospitals. “It was an amazing experience,” he said.

“Working with LCS has been a great experience,” Bill said. “I try to help out whenever I can and organize volunteers from my congregation.”

Tell us about some of the positive volunteer experiences that you or your church congregation has participated in.