VMs clear rubble and salvage possessions near some of the more than 1,200 homes destroyed by tornadoes.

Volunteer Ministers and others join forces, responding to the worst disaster to hit Greater Dallas in half a century.

The day after Christmas, nine tornadoes tore through the Texas towns of Garland and Rowlett.

They blew cars off of bridges, damaged or destroyed over 1,200 homes and killed more than ten people in the worst disaster to hit Greater Dallas in over 50 years. On the scale used to rate the intensity of tornadoes, these ranked second to the most severe known to man.

Within short order, nine Dallas Volunteer Ministers (VMs) came together to respond, registering at the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster Center, where they were assigned to one of the worst hit areas in the city of Garland.

Soon thereafter, the VMs met Pastor Jose Ortega of the National Association of Christian Churches (NACC) Disaster Services, a 20-year veteran in the field of disaster response.

Pastor Ortega and the Volunteer Ministers became immediate partners in the relief effort, setting up a large VM tent near the road outside of Garland’s Central Park Church of God, from which they coordinated volunteers, donations and distributions.

Pastor Ortega and the Volunteer Ministers next established a point of delivery at the First Christian Church in Rowlett, strategically situated at the intersection of two major roads between heavily damaged neighborhoods. There, they erected a second VM tent, standing out from the rubble in bright-yellow, signifying to all in the area that this was where they could come for help. Pastor Ortega and the VM team even arranged for the non-profit Beckley Dream Center in West Virginia to drive a food truck some 1,100 miles to assist in the relief effort.

“From early morning to well after dark in the bitter cold, you were constantly available and graciously willing to help with whatever needed doing.”

Hundreds of residents flocked to the VM tent for food, supplies, tarps, tools and bins, as well as information and coordination to quell the confusion in the wake of the disaster. Donations arrived there in a steady stream as well and these were promptly distributed to families in the affected area.

The VMs were soon joined by other non-profits, among them a Pet Rescue group providing animal food as well as information on where families could keep their cats and dogs while they resettled because many hotels where survivors were staying prohibited pets.

Back at the First Christian Church in Rowlett, the VM team continued assisting in the receipt and distribution of truckloads of donations—organizing food, clothing, water and supplies in order to get necessities out to families as quickly as possible. As the relief effort transitioned into the long-term recovery phase, VMs stayed and took on tasks that would otherwise have fallen by the wayside as other organizations packed up and left.

The VMs organized volunteers and worked alongside them removing debris, cleaning up neighborhoods, salvaging possessions and rebuilding homes.

“Your personal commitment and tireless assistance are exemplary,” wrote Anthony Massey of the Central Park Church of God in his letter acknowledging the Volunteer Ministers for their work. “From early morning to well after dark in the bitter cold, you were constantly available and graciously willing to help with whatever needed doing.”

All in all, the Volunteer Minister relief effort helped 2,470 people directly at the heart of the disaster, and marked the beginning of several new partnerships, promising greater help to thousands more in the future.


Volunteer Ministers are on call around the clock to respond to disasters of all types. Donations go toward volunteer travel expenses as well as basic resources for disaster victims, including food, water, tents and medical supplies. Because many VMs are also trained in superb organizational methods, they assist other relief workers so operations progress as efficiently as possible in a chaotic atmosphere.