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Hurricane Katrina – Disaster Services Director still vividly recalls relief efforts 10 years later

Ten years ago Saturday, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in southeast Louisiana. It is the country’s most expensive natural disaster and one of its five deadliest hurricanes.

It was also the largest Emergency Disaster Services operation in The Salvation Army’s history.


Not only did people donate $382 million to Salvation Army relief efforts, but following the storm, The Salvation Army EDS teams from across the country and Canada traveled to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help recovery efforts. Among them were teams from Kentucky and Tennessee, coordinated by then Disaster Services Director, Ray Dalrymple.

“Out of 62 communities in Kentucky and Tennessee, volunteers would just call, and we’d get them trained and sent down there,” he said. “It was Salvation Army people plus about 1,200 or 1,400 volunteers from all over Kentucky and Tennessee.”

He recalled the overwhelming support from the community to help those affected by the storm: “We had some Baptist ministers and their wives who wanted to be part of the [relief efforts] for Kentucky. They went down for two weeks, came back and went down again for two weeks.”

He also described the sense of community and urge to rally around those hit by Katrina as being similar to the camaraderie felt for New Yorkers after 9/11. (He volunteered at Ground Zero.)

“During Ground Zero, someone from England said everyone in America became a New Yorker and everyone in the world became an American for a little while,” he explained. “That’s pretty much how I would describe the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Katrina. It hurt us all; we were all devastated in one way or another. We all became part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast community, especially during the recovery.”


Dalrymple estimates The Salvation Army sent between 10 and 14 teams from Kentucky and Tennessee, and each team was made up of approximately five members. These included workers for the canteen (mobile feeding kitchen), cooks, drivers, maintenance workers and people who focused on logistics.

“Some of the people went down a couple times, but for the most part we tried to use different people – volunteers, officers, anyone who could make themselves available to do that.

“We were careful who we sent to work,” he added, “because those first few weeks, the people who worked in that situation were also victims, if you know what I mean. They went down there and lived down there under the same conditions as the victims, plus they did work. The conditions were VERY difficult.”

Those teams – called first responders since they were among the first of the relief groups on the scene, not for the type of services they provided – stayed in the Gulf Coast area until just after the beginning of 2006. Their primary duty was to provide food and water, though volunteers who had skills other teams needed would be sent to work with them.


“We served the firefighters policemen, medical teams – those kinds of first responders – as well as the victims,” Dalrymple said.

He mainly stayed in Louisville, coordinating the efforts, but two to three weeks after those efforts began, he traveled to Baton Rouge and New Orleans to retrieve some equipment.

“When I went down, they hadn’t finished recovering,” he said. “It was pretty much like it was the day after [Katrina] hit. It was devastation everywhere, unbelievable: boats up across the highway, houses and buildings that were on foundations where neighborhoods used to be.”

Dalrymple, who retired from his part-time position with The Salvation Army in 2013, has been in disaster service work since 1959. He was made Disaster Services Director in 2000, so Hurricane Katrina was his first major disaster at the helm.

However, it was not the first major disaster of his career. He was also working during Hurricane Camille in 1969 and helped to put together teams for Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In fact, he said, during the Katrina equipment retrieval, he said he could still see signs of Camille’s presence.

“You never fully recover. They’ve done a good job of rebuilding down there [after Katrina], but even now, there’s still just certain signs that you can tell that Hurricane Katrina was there. Some of that, in my opinion, people have left there so they will not forget.”

To recover as much as the area has, Dalrymple said, it takes “people from all around the country and all around the world.

“We had disaster teams from every corner of The Salvation Army world come and respond. That’s the only way you ever recover from that.”


It wasn’t just The Salvation Army, of course. He said, “I have great friends to this day from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Services, the Red Cross, Catholic Charities. It was a great team effort.”

And it was a time when people shone as they helped others who were in their darkest hour – some even when they were in that dark hour too.

“There was a Salvation Army officer they couldn’t find for several days. [He was] somewhere in the Gulfport area,” Dalrymple said. “As soon as the hurricane hit, he started serving and helping people, even though he and his family were victims themselves. They tried to get him to come home, to leave, and he wouldn’t do it. Not for a few weeks.
“There were so many little stories of ministry, help and assistance that will never be told, of people just doing the right thing. It was a time of great ministry for The Salvation Army service.”

To learn more about The Salvation Army’s response to Hurricane Katrina, visit:

Purchase Your Tickets Now for The Salvation Army’s 12th Annual Purse Auction!

Get your tickets now for The Salvation Army’s Women’s Auxiliary 12th Annual Purse Auction on Thursday, September 10th!  

PA 2015Tickets are on sale through Saturday, September 5th here!

The Women’s Auxiliary has been volunteering and raising support for the ministries of The Salvation Army since the mid 1980’s.  However, their most successful fundraising event to date is their annual Purse Auction.  This year marks twelve years of hosting the Purse Auction, each year has been a sellout!  The event has grown so large that the women have moved the event to The Chattanooga Convention Center located at 1150 Carter Street, just two blocks from where The Salvation Army first landed in Chattanooga 122 years ago.  Doors for the Purse Auction will open at 10:45 am and the luncheon and auction will begin at 11:30 am.

The Purse Auction is a Chattanooga favorite and is a fun way for women to come together to learn more about The Salvation Army while bidding on purses filled with lots of goodies,” states Associate Area Commander, Major Teresa Newsome. “ The designer purses that will be auctioned have been filled with jewelry, gift certificates for trips, vacation packages, salon services, dinner, local excursions, summer camps for children, golf packages and a whole lot more!

Tickets for this year’s auction are $40 for individual tickets and $320 for a table of eight guests. Tickets are on sale now through Saturday, September 5th. They can be obtained by calling 423-756-1023 or online here. 

For more information contact Major Teresa Newsome at 423-756-1023.

Click here to see pictures from the 11th Annual Purse Auction.

150 Faces & Facts Volume 3

Did you know these fun facts about The Salvation Army?

Be Inspired

To mark 150 years of global service, we are sharing 150 Faces and Facts on our social media channels. Here on the blog, we are sharing a kind of round-up of our daily posts, so you can get a bunch of faces and facts about The Salvation Army through the years in one place. Think you know the shield? Check these out and see if you learn something new!

1. Faces –The 26 Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers across the country were made possible largely by funds from Ray and Joan Kroc, whose legacy allowed The Salvation Army to build comprehensive community centers where children and families would be exposed to different people, activities and arts that would otherwise be beyond their reach. Massachusetts was blessed to receive a portion of this gift to establish The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of Boston

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Effective Giving After a Disaster

At The Salvation Army of Chattanooga, we LOVE our donors.  They have helped us feed hungry neighbors and families, provide shelter on cold nights, serve and pray with the survivors and first responders during times of disaster.

We know that people want to give.  The best and most efficient way of giving during disasters is giving financially.

First, financial gifts allow us to be flexible.  On the first day of disaster relief effort, the need may be water and sunscreen for the first responders, but by day three the need may change to preparing food and providing clean up kits for the survivors.  The only way to meet these changing and challenging needs is to have the ability to purchase exactly what is needed at the time it is needed.  GH1

Second, disaster areas become chaotic in many ways. After a disaster incident, roads and other infrastructure can be badly damaged or closed off by the authorities, making it difficult, if not impossible, to send in trucks weighed down with supplies.  Floods can wash out roads; earthquakes topple buildings or damage bridges; hurricanes and tornadoes bring down power lines. Then, when you factor in the cost of trucking supplies long distance, it becomes far more cost effective to buy close to the disaster incident.

Disaster Relief2- April 2011 072

Third, when we buy locally we support the economy within and near the impacted disaster area and provide them with financial resources they will need to rebuild and recover.  This is critical!  The stores closest to the disaster site will struggle, especially if customers have limited access due to damaged roads and infrastructure.  We do a lot of good when we buy locally, and only financial gifts allow us to do that.

Lastly, overseas disasters are very challenging to support with anything other than financial gifts.  As mentioned earlier about the cost of shipping over land, the cost multiplies significantly when the shipping is by plane or boat.  Another added cost is the high cost of import charges and taxes.

As always, thank you for your gently-used furniture, appliances, household goods, clothing and other items!  They are ALWAYS in need at our Family Stores to keep supplies stocked all year long, but they are not typically accepted in relief of disasters.

The Salvation Army thanks you for your generous support.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact us.  May God richly bless you!

Greater Chattanooga Salvation Army welcomes Jill Woodruff and Matthew Dodgins to its team!

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, The Salvation Army welcomes both Jill Norton Woodruff and Matthew Dodgins to its Community Relations and Development team.

Read more


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