Conference 2018 Spotlight

2018 National VOAD Board of Directors

Listed below are the 2018-2019 National VOAD Board of Directors! We look forward to working together with the Board and our Members to improve in every phase of the disaster response cycle.


Chair: John Ricketts - Feed the Children

Vice-Chair: Keith Adams - New Jersey VOAD

Secretary: Jenn Dorsch-Messler - Brethren Disaster Ministries

Treasurer: Elizabeth Disco-Shearer - St. Vincent de Paul

Asst. Treasurer: Jay Burdick - Rhode Island VOAD


Jane Aslam - ICNA Relief

Ron Busroe - The Salvation Army

Dan Christopulos - International Orthodox Christian Charities

Cathy Earl - United Methodist Committee on Relief

Jim Kirk - Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Warren Miller - Mississippi VOAD

Pastor Michael Stadie - Lutheran Disaster Response


Greg Forrester - National VOAD

Christopher Smith - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

National VOAD Awards

Congratulations to the winners of this year's National VOAD awards! National VOAD would also like to extend our gratitude to our members, partners, and volunteers who, together, make the VOAD Movement a reality.

National Member of the Year: Hope AACR
State VOAD of the Year: Texas VOAD
Partner of the Year: ALAN (American Logistics Aid Network)
Innovative Program of the Year: Tzu Chi USA for the "Turn Trash Into Gold" Program
Spirit Award: Flo Walker Knox of The Salvation Army USA
Volunteer of the Year: David Rauer of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Conference By The Numbers

  • Over 615 Attendees! Our highest attendance ever! 
  • 175 First Time Attendees
  • 10,000 pounds of food packed at the annual service project!
  • 40+ exhibitors and sponsors

Conference Sponsors and Exhibitors

Thank you to our wonderful sponsors! Without the generous donations of our sponsors, Conference, and much of our work throughout the year, would simply not be possible. Below is a list of all of our wonderful sponsors and exhibitors:

  • Adventist Community Service
  • Airbnb
  • American Red Cross
  • Americares
  • Catholic Charities USA
  • Churches of Scientology
  • Commerce Bank
  • Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy
  • Dollar Days International
  • FEMA
  • Friends of Disabled Adults & Children
  • Good360
  • Headwaters Relief Organization
  • IAEM
  • ICNA Relief USA
  • IFOC
  • Islamic Relief USA
  • Kits for Kidz
  • LABX Presented by the National Academy of Science
  • Mennonite Disaster Service
  • OnStar
  • Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
  • Scientology Volunteer Ministers
  • Shelter Box USA
  • St Vincent de Paul USA
  • The Home Depot
  • The Salvation Army
  • Tzu Chi Foundation
  • United Way
  • UPS
  • Uzima Water Filters
  • Verified Volunteers
  • Visionlink, Inc
  • Wal-Mart
  • World Renew

Conference Evaluation

Please take a moment to let us know what you thought of Conference 2018! Click here to fill out a brief survey. Thanks!

Setting the Course for Providence

Over the past 26 years, National VOAD members and partners have assembled at the National VOAD Conference to work on improving our disaster relief and recovery efforts. Quite often, these annual meetings take place after major disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. This year’s Conference in Providence will be no different. In fact, given the scope of current response and recovery efforts, this year’s Conference may be one of the most influential in National VOAD’s history.
That being said, Providence is a natural host for Conference 2018. The long legacy of Providence fishermen braving rough conditions to get the job done should be familiar to National VOAD members, partners and volunteers. (The coffee and donut shops that Providence is famous for should be familiar with our members at the end of the week, as well!)
Hurricane season showed us the importance of the VOAD movement and that if we all set our sails in the same direction, we can make great progress. From Texas to Puerto Rico, National VOAD members worked closely with local and National partners to get the job done, and set the communities they served on a course to recovery.  As the next hurricane season fast approaches, we hope that you use this time in Providence to network and learn new ways you can serve those in need.
We look forward to celebrating this year’s achievements with you! Onwards to Providence!

Top 5 Reasons To Go To Conference

  1. Your best chance to network with leaders in the disaster field.
  2. Providence has the most coffee and donut shops per capita of any city in the country. Need we say more?!
  3. Visit The Big Blue Bug, also known as Nibbles Woodaway, located along I-95 in Providence. Nibbles is the world’s largest artificial bug!
  4. Get to hang out with National VOAD Board Member, Jay Burdick.
  5. History! Providence is teeming with Colonial historical sites.

On the Road

“Not all those who wander are lost” J.R.R. Tolkien

I continue to be amazed at all that our member organizations are engaged in and get accomplished …and I love to get to share those stories with local, state, and federal emergency management and private sector partners. Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of traveling the country and talking to many of you about how we can improve collaboration, and coordination amongst our members. Strengthening the VOAD network is a constant focus for National VOAD, and my experiences in Texas, Florida, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico showed that we are doing just that.

In January, I was invited by Points of Light to share our volunteer engagement experience with the Corporate Service Council (CSC) – a group of corporations that are looking to engage their employees in meaningful ways in communities that have experienced disasters. This was followed by a meeting in Austin, TX to discuss disaster case management with many of our national members (TX VOAD, TX HHS, TDEM, FEMA). We were also joined by representatives from Puerto Rico interested in developing their case management processes for their survivors.

In February, several NVOAD members were invited to give a briefing for senior military staff atNORAD/USNORTHCOM in Colorado Springs and engage in dialogue about military assets working alongside voluntary agencies. The military leadership was particularly impressed at the scope of the capabilities of VOAD members, and your ability to put out quality situation reports. Our ability to seamlessly interact with different branches of government is an asset that we bring to our members and improves our network’s abilities on the ground.

From Texas, I was invited by the Florida VOAD to travel throughout the state to view the damage. I attended the Florida Governor’s Conference for Emergency Management, and met with Ken Skalitzsky from Volunteer Florida. Gabe Tischler of Catholic Charities hosted me for dinner, and Lesli Remaly of FEMA taught me everything I needed to know about local LTRGs. In addition, I had the opportunity to drive from Orlando, to St. Augustine, to Daytona Beach, the full length of the Florida Keys, and then back to Orlando – amazed by the amount and geography of the damage from the storms. These experiences show that a large, multi-layered network of State, National and Government partners is propagating the VOAD movement. Seeing this assures me the VOAD network is resilient and working.

I then traveled on invitation from FEMA to USVI to work with new LTRGs and assist in the reforming of St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John VOAD, and USVI VOAD. I met with our members on the ground – All Hands and Hearts, Lutheran Social Services, Episcopal Relief, Catholic Charities, UCC, and others who are working hard to bring some relief and recovery. Lots of assistance will be needed for many years and I thank the network of VOAD members currently on the ground for their dedicated attention to the needs of survivors.

March was speaking season. I was a panelist for the National Governor’s Association: Office of Best Practices, the National Council of Counties on Volunteer Engagement, and a think tank conversation on preparedness hosted by Concordia/AmeriCares. In addition, I also attended a Red Cross gathering regarding Canadian/Mexican cross border disaster response. Finally, I spoke at the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) forum. Everyone I spoke to at these events is interested in how to better engage with National VOAD members and include all of you in their response and recovery plans. Spreading our message in this way is a vital piece to growth for our association, and I was glad to hear that the National VOAD network is a crucial part of emergency plans across the country.  

Finally, I traveled to Puerto Rico to meet with Puerto Rico VOAD and our members on the ground. While I was there, Puerto Rico VOAD and National VOAD collaborated on a gathering of members working in Puerto Rico to create relationships between local member organizations and national member groups. Promoting collaboration and communication on this level can be crucial to improving relief efforts and National VOAD is excited to play a part. During my time in Puerto Rico, National VOAD had exciting discussions surrounding building relationships for recovery with FEMA, the PR Manufacturers Association, PR Governor’s Office, PR Chaplain’s Association, and the PR Housing Authority!

There is no place that you are not welcome or needed! Please let me know how we can help get you connected…the work you do with survivors sets the foundation of everything we do. Thank you for the continued opportunity to make the 4C’s connect your capabilities to those in need.

Tzu Chi Foundation in Puerto Rico (VOAD Vision)

Upon arriving in Yabucoa, ground zero for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, we were taken back by the municipality’s somber beauty, as if this coastal valley and its people had been forgotten. Homes and public buildings were left in devastated ruins with plastic bottle waste polluting the beautiful scenery; the community looked empty and abandoned.

“It seemed like a bomb fell on us and destroyed everything, everything, everything,” Luis Colon, a police officer and resident of Yabucoa, said.

This sentiment of feeling forgotten is one that is shared by Puerto Ricans throughout the state. A third of Puerto Ricans are still without power and electricity, and with lack of access to clean water as a major issue, bottled water is the main source of water. With Puerto Rico’s very limited landfill capacity, you would, as Phillip Shaw of FEMA states, “imagine the risk of developing a disaster within a disaster.”

Puerto Ricans, however, have voiced their desire for sustainable and renewable energy such as solar and wind, for projects that reduce plastic bottle waste in their state, and for partnership and education programs that are localized and community-based.

As Tzu Chi volunteers, we believe change starts from the self, from the individual. Collaborating with FEMA, other disaster response agencies, schools, civil societies and the local municipal government, the organization is, in addition to providing emergency cash assistance, solar technology, and food and non-food items, developing education and environmental protection programs to combat the issue of plastic bottle waste. Using the “Trash into Gold” concept and program, where plastic bottles are converted into blankets and other products that help with recovery efforts, Tzu Chi plans on developing an on-line curriculum that can be used to change behavior through education and technical expertise.

The organization’s environmental protection concept “works on the premise that people can protect the environment by the choices they make and their behavior as individuals by living a simpler life style and reducing carbon footprint is crucial towards living in harmony with Mother Earth,” as David Meyers of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and previous director of the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives states.

Tzu Chi will continue to work with our partners and the local populations on the ground for the long haul, rebuilding, setting up schools and water supply, offering free clinics, and more. “We cannot do everything alone, we have to work with our partners,” Debra Boudreaux, Executive Vice President of Tzu Chi USA, said in an interview.

Project Comeback: Texas

Texas Disaster Survivors to Receive Disaster Case Management Services from Consortium of Experienced Voluntary Agencies

National VOAD Board Votes to Move Ahead with “Project Comeback: Texas”

Alexandria, Va. (March 7, 2018) – Joining together as one to provide disaster survivors in Texas with access to national-level expertise combined with local relationships, members of the board of directors of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster today approved a motion to move forward with a disaster case management program they will administer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in cooperation with the state of Texas.

In 2017, the state of Texas bore much of the impact of the 16 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that impacted the United States. While the state and disaster response agencies were responding to 2017’s storms they were still dealing with the aftermath of the weather events of 2015 and 2016, pushing them to their capacity limits and beyond.

Through “Project Comeback: Texas”, a pilot program specific to the state, five member organizations of National VOAD will join together to implement a disaster case management delivery mechanism that will enable each agency to focus on their areas of expertise while effectively and efficiently responding to the needs of Texans living in the 41-county Hurricane Harvey declaration area. The five consortium members will help build local capacity and implement this with other NVOAD and/or state VOAD members.

National VOAD partners participating in the consortium are Catholic Charities USA, the official domestic relief agency of the U.S. Catholic Church; ICNA Relief, one of the nation’s Muslim disaster response agencies; Lutheran Disaster Response US, the domestic disaster ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, working in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of the South Disaster Response/Upbring (LSSDR); Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the national council of the Society St. Vincent de Paul’s Disaster Services Corporation (DSC); and, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the global humanitarian aid organization of The United Methodist Church.

“The strength of this consortium model is that it unites National VOAD partners and their diverse strengths into one partnership created to serve the people of Texas,” said Greg Forrester, president and CEO of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. “Our member agencies have long histories of serving disaster-impacted communities in every phase of disaster from preparedness through recovery. This disaster case management effort will support and enhance all of the case management efforts already in place.”

“For years, part of National VOAD’s work has been to ‘find ways to do things better’ and this is most certainly in alignment with that principle,” said Zach Wolgemuth of the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries and board chair. “We continue to evaluate leading practices and refine our strategic plan to meet emerging needs. Proper disaster case management is key to effective and efficient recovery efforts… this pilot project affords the opportunity to enhance the work of all the agencies and organizations engaged in providing recovery services to disaster survivors.”

“National VOAD member organizations are leaders in serving vulnerable populations, including low-income households, seniors, veterans, single-parent households, and households with languages other than English,” stated Forrester. “Because this consortium is a single program with multiple member organizations, each agency will have the ability to seek or provide support in each of the partners’ specialized areas of managerial responsibilities while still utilizing systematized financial and training systems for continuity of service delivery.”

“The opportunity to expand the usual approach for FEMA-funded disaster case management in Texas will allow both the state and the voluntary community to increase their capacity to continue to respond and support Texans as they recover from Hurricane Harvey,” continued Forrester. “Collaborating with the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas Health and Human Services vendors and FEMA illustrates how whole community resources can be leveraged effectively for survivors.”

“Project Comeback: Texas” will be implemented by National VOAD members through their local affiliates and partners and the direct providers will be organizations already connected to their communities. This will allow for better understanding of local relationships, resources and culture. It is also expected that these organizations will hire, collectively, over 400 people – the vast majority of which will be local hires, further contributing to the community’s economic recovery.

Many of the NVOAD consortium partners are already working in these areas and the availability of FEMA funding will allow them to expand their capacity to other areas of need and extend the length of time that they are able to provide disaster case management services to over 12,000 households in need of further support.

For the next phase of the project, National VOAD will be coordinating meetings with the state and federal government agencies operating in Texas and the five primary VOAD providers in order to begin the transfer of data and start the hiring processes. The project is anticipated to run for 24 months.


About the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster

National VOAD, an association of organizations that mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters, provides a forum promoting cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration; and fosters more effective delivery of services to communities affected by disaster. The National VOAD coalition includes over 60 of the country's most reputable national organizations (faith-based, community-based and other non-governmental organizations) and 56 State/Territory VOADs, which represent Local/Regional VOADs and hundreds of other member organizations throughout the country. For more information visit or follow and

Media Contacts:

Dan Curran for National VOAD - 770-658-9586 (cell) - [email protected]

Greg Forrester of National VOAD - 347-302-4081 (cell) - [email protected]

Important Dates

April 5th - 'Early-Bird' Registration Closes

April 5th - Hotel Room Block Closes

April 13th - Board Nominations are Due

April 13th - Member Award Nominations are Due

April 23rd - Committee Appointments are Due

April 23rd - Silent Auction Submissions (Tentative)

April 23rd - Conference Registration Closes

April 30th - Proxy Forms are Due

May 7th - 10th - National VOAD Conference in Providence, Rhode Island