Cokato-based volunteer relief organization to recruit state-wide
By Kristen Miller
The Rev. Ralph Erickson is joining the Minnesota Disaster Relief (MDR) team with plans of networking throughout the state, gathering even more volunteers and opportunities to serve.
To Erickson, MDR is an acronym for mobilizing, developing, and responding.
“The “m” stands for mobilizing people to serve, the “d” is for developing bridges between the faith communities and the overall community, and the “r” is for responding to crisis needs,” Erickson said.
Many locals remember Erickson as the Lamson Evangelical Free Church pastor for more than 18 years; a career he ended to serve in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.
As the new MDR administrative director, Erickson brings 18 months of crisis response experience in the Gulf Coast region to what is currently an unpaid position, and Erickson also brings a servant’s heart, volunteering his time, as well.
During his time in Louisiana, Erickson was the project coordinator of more than 10,000 volunteers in the rebuilding of New Orleans.
Aside from his recent work down south, Erickson has served on more than 20 mission trips throughout the years.
Erickson returned home in October and is currently working for Sundblad Construction as an office and finance administrator.
Still, on Sundays, Erickson can be found in the pulpit, filling in at various area churches.
Al Nagel, MDR director, is appreciative of Erickson’s willingness to serve in this position.
“[Organizing disaster relief trips] takes a lot of energy. It’ll be nice to share some of that responsibility with Ralph,” Nagel said.
Erickson is hoping to network with communities across the state, so that MDR is the vehicle for people to volunteer during natural disasters and crises.
“I think there are a lot of people looking for ways they can help others and serve,” Erickson said.
His ultimate goal is to have people calling and asking where and when they can volunteer, and having a multitude of work sites for them to choose from, according to Erickson.
“The church is always encouraging people to be the hands and feet of Christ, but so often, we (as a pastors) dismiss the congregation with very limited direction [for serving] outside of the programs of the church, and I think MDR can help,” Erickson said.
With much of the relief work done outside of the community, Erickson believes people are more willing to volunteer.
“I’m a firm believer that if you take a handful of [volunteers] and dispatch them in other communities, they get more done. It’s so easy to allow distractions to get in the way at home,” Erickson said.
He is hoping to plan trips the second weekend of every month so volunteers can plan ahead.
Also in this new position, Erickson will work on updating the MDR web site, making it more user-friendly and interactive.
To check out past MDR trips and to learn more about the organization, check out www.mndisasterrelief.org.
Opportunities to volunteer
Minnesota Disaster Relief is gearing up to head down south to help in the flood-ravaged areas of the Midwest.
The first trip will depart Thursday, July 10 at 5:30 p.m. from Holt Tour and Charter, and will return Sunday, July 13 at 8 p.m.
The second trip is planned for Monday, Aug. 18 at 6 a.m., returning Thursday, Aug. 21 at 2 p.m.
The third trip will depart that same day at 5:30 p.m., and return Sunday, Aug. 24 at 8 p.m.
Other trips planned for the fall include Sept. 11-14, Oct. 9-12, and Nov. 13-16.
Cost of the trips are $150, which includes most meals, lodging, and transportation. Those interested may call Erickson at (612) 790-9265 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.