A week after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and the extensive flood took place, The Gathering at Sandestin wanted to offer its help to those people who were impacted most severely. We announced ahead of the service that week that all funds donated in our offering plates that week would be sent to worthy causes in the Houston area. Almost $4,000 was collected that Sunday.

The board of directors The Gathering determined that they would match that amount from the church's reserves. The Gathering had made similar contributions to natural disasters such as the tornado in Oklahoma City and the flooding in Baton Rouge.

While searching for the right place to send the funds, the directors realized that national and local charities were sending millions in cash and goods that were overwhelming the local infrastructure and was not always being distributed efficiently. The directors decided to try to find a way to make their contributions as meaningful and as helpful as possible. They contacted many people in the Houston area, but virtually all of them had organizations that while doing good, also had overhead expenses so that some of the money was spent on salaries and expenses rather than helping individuals. The board wanted to do it differently, but were having no luck in finding such a way.

Board Member Bob Coppedge finally talked to a friend who knew someone in Houston who then called another friend who had heard about a local effort whose aims were similar. The Gathering contacted the woman who started the program and she explained that she lived in a neighborhood that was not impacted too greatly by the hurricane. She and some of her neighbors then contacted the local school districts and asked for names of 10 families from each one who had been most severely affected. They then set about founding an informal organization they called Families for Families. Each family in their neighborhood was assigned one of the impacted families. Eventually, 50 families "adopted" 50 other families. The adopting family agreed to work with their family to determine the immediate and long-term needs of that family and then to help provide it by paying for it themselves or raising the money.

After a phone conversation and several emails, The Gathering's board agreed to help in any way they could. Their first expenditure was to pay for a family with four kids who had lost all of their bedroom furniture and were sleeping on the floor. The adopted family bought new bunk beds, along with mattresses, sheets, pillows, etc. for $1,800 and put it on their credit card, even though they didn't know how they were going to pay for it. Along with the adopting family, they prayed for some help. About that time, The Gathering made the phone call and told them the church would pay the bill. The organization will continue to ask The Gathering for special contributions to specific needs of specific families until the church has exhausted its designated funds. These families have all been "vetted" and are hard working family units who were devastated by the floods.

Jay Stone is chairman of the board at The Gathering at Sandestin.