Christian aid warehouse burns to the ground — Millions of pounds of food, medicines lost


HOUSTON, Texas — Nearly a year after coming to the aid of Hurricane Katrina victims, the Christian Alliance for Humanitarian Aid is desperately seeking assistance after a June 19 fire destroyed its 64,000-square-foot warehouse.

The uninsured loss is estimated at $2.5 million in structural loss and at least $4 million in contents, including food and medicines, said Curtis Wilke, executive director of the alliance. As of press time, the cause of the fire was not determined, although heavy thunderstorms were in the area.

In a twist of irony, Wilke said he believes Hurricane Katrina could be responsible for the slow pace of post-fire assistance. The agency sent more than a million meals to New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane.

In anticipation for this year's hurricane season, which began in June, the Pearland, Texas-based warehouse was fully stocked.

"It's been a little disappointing, but we attribute some of that to hurricane fatigue in our area," he said.

Even so, Wilke said he was buoyed by the recent donation of a forklift by a local company.

"I'm hoping that starts the first pickle out of the jar," he said.

Described as a Matthew 25 ministry, the alliance is considered an integral member of a compassion coalition headed by Somebody Cares America.

 "The Christian Alliance is an important ministry in the Houston area," said Doug Stringer, president of Somebody Cares America.  "People will be missing meals if the supplies are not replenished."

In the first weeks after the fire, the alliance secured a 4,000-square-foot warehouse—less than a fifth of the size of the burned structure—on Produce Row.

Although working from a much-smaller warehouse, the group was able to resume its weekly food distribution for 3,000 families.

"It wasn't quite as strong as our normal distribution, but we were able to do it," Wilke said.

In addition to its work in Houston, the agency has provided international relief, including contributing $2.5 million in medicines to Iraq and assistance with Ghana floods. In all, 53 countries have benefited from the work of the alliance.

Although already working to rebuild its food stock— a task that is expected to take at least a year—Wilkes said the most immediate need is cash donations to help maintain staff, including a husband-wife team and an expectant father. They are also in need of refrigerated shipping containers or semi-trailers.

"I think God has a very different plan on where He wants to take this to, a whole different level," he said.

For more information on needed donations, visit Christian-alliance.org or somebodycares.org