This is the story of the formation of a local disaster service. The year was 1990 and there was a guest speaker at church one evening. Tom Hoke decided to attend to hear what he had to say about a Christian disaster service organization from Ohio. He had felt the tug on his heart to become active in service work. As the coordinator for the Friends Disaster Service began his talk, it was as if God was speaking himself. Tom instantly knew that this was the answer to his prayer. Without a doubt, Tom knew this was what God wanted of him. The appeal was made for a coordinator in the Texas area. This was the service that the Lord had led him to be a part. This was the birth of Friends Disaster Service.
Tom Hoke is a long time resident of League City and the owner of League City Glass & Mirrors. He and his wife Kathy have both been active with FDS. They are members at Lighthouse Fellowship Church in League City, where they both are active in the ministries of the church. They have two children and four grandchildren. Because of the belief that God is in control of all things, Tom is able to leave his business in capable hands and give leadership to these projects. As they have taken the time to serve the Lord through their commitment to His service, they have been blessed to be a blessing to others. In addition to coordinating Friends Disaster Service, Tom provides leadership in other areas of ministry. He is the chairman for Coalition for Hispanic Ministries, and a board member for Alliance of Friends Gulf Coast. All of these positions are volunteer positions. “One thing we know for sure,” says Tom, “is that you can never out give God. We have been blessed because we give our time and resources to His glory. We don’t ever worry about time taken off of work because God blesses us with work because we give to Him.”
Based on Matthew 25:40 “Whatever you did for one of the least of these you did for me.”; the mission of FDS is to exemplify God’s love and bring hope and encouragement to survivors of disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires, etc. Our many volunteers provide them with cleanup services and rebuild assistance. FDS shows no partiality to survivors because of race, religion or ethnic persuasion. Preference is usually given to survivors who are elderly, handicapped, of low income or uninsured.
Friends Disaster Service is an outreach of the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting (Quakers). The organization was started in the Eastern United States in 1974 under the able leadership of Dean & Freeda Johnson of Peninsula, Ohio. This was the man that came to speak the night Tom’s heart was stirred to provide leadership for FDS.
FDS volunteers are not first responders. State and National affiliates in the Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD) promotes cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration during disaster preparedness, response, relief and recovery efforts. We are one of those affiliates. We will be there for clean ups but become instrumental in the rebuilding efforts after a disaster. Our work goes on for years after a disaster has hit an area.
FDS has worked to restore lives after major hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast. We worked in Louisiana and Texas after hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Rita, and Ike. Tropical storm Allison that lingered over the Houston area commanded much work for FDS. Tom worked closely with the Mayor of Friendswood and KSBJ to coordinate volunteer efforts for cleanup. We have sent crews to Honduras and El Salvador to help recover efforts after hurricanes in those countries. The category 5 tornado that hit Greensberg, Kansas took volunteers over a year of traveling back and forth to completely build a home for an elderly couple in addition to helping repair a number of other homes. After hurricane Ike hit the Texas Gulf Coast area we have spent nearly two years working with folks in San Leon, Seabrook, LaPorte, League City, Dickinson and Santa Fe. Besides doing initial clean outs, we did everything from clean tree debris and small repairs to complete home restoration. There is still work to be done in the area to complete the recovery from Ike.
It’s not just hurricanes and tornadoes that cause havoc and require the volunteer services of FDS. We have gone in after fires and many years of disrepair to help those who meet the criteria of our organization. We have been referred by the City of League City and members of the Texas VOAD association to help.
FDS has banded together with other faith based disaster organizations to build temporary sleeping quarters for the people that survived the earthquake in January of this year. The warehouse for the assembling of these quarters is located in the old Academy building in League City. The 8’ x 12’ wooden structure contains two built-in bunk beds. A Haitian family of 10-12 can find solace from the rainy season in these homes. Each wall, floor and roof is built separately and shipped flat. A crew will arrive in Haiti to help with the assembly of the homes.
Tom was in Haiti In June working with another Christian organization, Builders Without Borders, to repair the Haitian Childrens’ Home, a home for orphaned or abandoned children in Jacmel, Haiti. He spent another week in Arachale working on repairs to a church for Friends missionary.
FDS is comprised solely of volunteers with no paid staff members. FDS relies 100% on donor contributions. FDS is a non-profit organization and holds a 501-C-3 status under its parent organization. All donations are tax deductible. Generous gifts of time, money and prayer have kept FDS in active duty mode for 20 years. Donation may be sent to Friends Disaster Service, 925 E. Walker St., League City, TX 77573. For more information or if you would like to become a volunteer with FDS, contact Tom Hoke at (281) 808-7393.
Friends Disaster Service is affecting our community and the world: one person, one family, one project at a time.