Come Home to Norfolk

Jan 02

[ARCHIVED] Open Letter to Norfolk’s Faith Community

The original item was published from January 2, 2018 1:33 PM to May 19, 2022 11:13 AM

To our Faith Leaders throughout Norfolk, I write this letter with love and reverence.  My message to you is plain and simple: we need you.

As you are no doubt aware, the 2017 Hurricane Season was one of significant damage, pain and suffering.  Homes were destroyed.  Families displaced.  Recovery will take years.  As the city’s Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response, my role is to best ensure our community is prepared for, can respond to and recovery from such an incident (or incidents).  I feel blessed to report, thanks to the engagement and input of so many committed partners from the various sectors and levels of government, Team Norfolk has solid plans and frameworks built on partnerships, realistic expectations and shared resources.  In fact, the level of talent, resources and expertise throughout Norfolk is amazing.  We still have gaps, however, and that’s where we need you to come in.

Not long ago, in partnership with Dr. Kirk Houston, Senior Pastor of Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist Church, and Dr. Glenn Porter, Senior Pastor of Queen Street Baptist Church - two Godly men for whom I have the utmost adoration – we discussed a program intended to build resilience and increase the level of disaster preparedness in our congregations and community before, during and after disasters.  A concept borrowed from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, we laid the foundation for a program called “Norfolk Operation Brother’s Keeper” with the intent of training and empowering our faith-based organizations in the city.  This is done by effectively utilizing local, state and federal resources and manpower to assist those in need and further identify and rapidly deploy a resource pool or identified trained volunteers.  

To be clear, this program is all about working together.  A steering committee has been in place led by faith leaders of various denominations and geographically dispersed.  Likewise, city staff and community partners have been offering much-needed training for faith leaders and support staff, developing and sharing free plans for your facilities, ready to discuss concepts, strategies and realistic expectations, and want to otherwise build relationships with our strong faith community.  Training sessions to date have included the Active Shooter threat as well as Hurricanes / Tropic Storms.  Agencies which support Norfolk Operation Brother’s Keeper include the following:

  • Norfolk Emergency Preparedness & Response
  • Norfolk Public Works
  • Norfolk Geographic Information Systems
  • American Red Cross
  • Norfolk Human Services
  • Norfolk Neighborhood Development
  • National Weather Service
  • Operation Blessing International
  • Norfolk Police and Fire-Rescue
  • Dept. of Homeland Security Center for Faith-  
  • Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
  • Norfolk Public Safety Chaplains
Our participating Houses of Worship have the access and information as to make decisions based on the same material we receive in the Emergency Operations Center.  They’re also given the opportunity to assist with any disaster in a meaningful and coordinate way.  We want all of our Houses of Worship to be part of this Team!!  By working together there is much we can do to build the resilience and capacity for our community, whether you might be interested in serving as a hurricane shelter (or provide staff for shelters, or even participate in our NEST homeless sheltering program during the winter months), sharing parking lots for use at food/water distribution centers, helping identify vulnerable populations in our congregations to ensure they receive the helping hand they may need, sharing critical incident-specific information with your congregants, reporting resource requests to the Norfolk Emergency Operations Center – particularly as it pertains to unmet needs, and most importantly, lifting our community and responders up in prayer.  The key to success is having these conversations now – before the next incident.

Again, we need you.  For the protection and well-being of our community, for the most effective preparedness, response and recovery efforts, this partnership must be established and cultivated.  There is much we can do at no cost; the plans and frameworks are already in place!  All it takes is the investment of time.  We hope you’ll consider being part of the Team.

As you feel led, please feel free to email me at or call me at (757) 441-5533. 

Thank you for your time and consideration!