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Kevin King speaks to a crowd of about 40 during the Friends of MDS reception at MennoCon23 in Kansas CityKevin King speaks to a crowd of about 40 during the Friends of MDS reception at MennoCon23 in Kansas City

At a Friends of MDS reception held during MennoCon last week in Kansas City, volunteers, partners, and future volunteers gathered to enjoy some snacks—and talk about why disaster recovery is so important in today’s world.

MDS Executive Director Kevin King thanked the group for supporting MDS, and reflected on how much the organization—and the world of disaster response—have changed in his 20-year tenure.

“Ten years ago, this month, MDS was responding to six projects,” he said. “This month we are responding to 16 projects.”

Disasters are on the rise, King noted—and they’re becoming costlier, too.

“Twenty years ago, there were billion-dollar disasters happening every 80 days,” he said. “Now, every 18 days, on average, there is a billion-dollar disaster.”

"That’s what I always appreciated about MDS: they go where they’re needed most.”

— Ruth Wenger, volunteer during the response to Hurricane Sandy

MDS has strengthened its disaster mitigation practices and, in the process, has been able to help more people become disaster-resilient, even amid climate change.

“When I started 20 years ago, there were four full-time employees—now there are 29, and MDS has transitioned more and more into long-term recovery,” King said. “Probably the toughest part of our job right now is saying ‘no’ to some communities who want our help.”

Ruth Wenger, who attended the reception, shared memories of volunteering during the MDS response to Hurricane Sandy in, among other places, Far Rockaway, a neighborhood on the eastern part of the Rockaway peninsula in the New York City borough of Queens.

“On the west end of the island, there was a fairly wealthy area, and the eastern end was in poverty,” she said. “The eastern end was where MDS went, and that was not lost on people. That’s what I always appreciated about MDS: they go where they’re needed most.”

Future volunteers learned more about MDS at the Friends of MDS reception. Sixteen-year-old Simon Stuckey, from Fairport, New York, said MDS’s mission of helping those most in need resonates with him and his friends. “MDS includes all types of people in their work—not just Mennonite church people—but everyone,” he said.

Written by Susan Kim, MDS writer 

 

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