When Disaster Strikes
Local Emergency Sevice Organization IDES Provides Worldwide Aid
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photographer: Michael Durr
For more than four decades the International Disaster Emergency Service (IDES), headquartered in Noblesville since 2015, has been reaching out to localities all over the globe in times of trouble to lend physical, emotional and spiritual assistance.
The organization was launched back in the early 1970s when Milton Bates, a Navy veteran and pattern maker for General Motors based in Marion, read about a major cyclone that had torn through Bangladesh. A regular churchgoer, Bates began wondering how independent Christian churches throughout the U.S. might get more involved in times of disaster — both domestically and internationally.
Working out of his kitchen, Bates and his wife Janet began writing hundreds of letters to church leaders, ministers and bible college presidents nationwide to gauge interest in forming an organization that local churches could turn to for significant aid to those affected by floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters.
“By 1973 Milton got nine men to respond, and they were interested but wanted him to take the lead,” says Rick Jett, current executive director of IDES and the late Bates’s son-in-law. “In June of that year, those guys met with Milton at the North American Christian Convention in Indianapolis. That’s when he started working on it making it an official 501(c)(3) non-profit.”
Today, the IDES staff of 12 works exclusively with independent Christian Church and Church of Christ congregations and missions in areas where disaster strikes, acting as an aid organization to which those churches can apply for resources to help at the local level.
“Our main mission is to enhance the outreach of each local church we are helping,” Jett says. “We’re saying, ‘Here are the resources that we can bring to your congregation, but we’re going to look to your congregation for the manpower and volunteers.’ So wherever we have local congregations or missionaries working in different countries, that’s who we look to for the manpower to channel the
Along with disaster relief, IDES has four additional focus areas — hunger relief, community development and sustainability, medical care, as well as evangelism projects and spiritual assistance. Jett says the vast majority of the organization’s annual budget is allocated toward disaster response, and the annual IDES budget is around $4M.
“Our income will fluctuate some because of disasters. For example, Hurricane Harvey upped our income because that was such a huge event,” Jett says. “So we have spikes with events like Katrina and the tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Also, our operation is supported by the churches so when individuals donate, that goes directly toward projects and helping people. We don’t take any percentage out of our individual gifts.”
In addition to providing emergency food and medical supplies, IDES volunteers construct and deliver mobile storage units for individuals and families who are waiting for their homes to be repaired and in need of temporary storage for salvaged belongings.
“It’s so they don’t have to pay a monthly fee for a storage unit,” Jett says. “Again, we look to the churches to do a case study to find the families that can use them. We get volunteers locally to put them up. We sent a bunch to Texas after Hurricane Harvey.”
IDES also runs a food packing program through which volunteers can help prepare sealable meals that are shipped to the organization’s partners and local churches to be distributed to hungry and malnourished populations around the world.
Jett says the company has recently been speaking with Hamilton County leaders about coordinating during emergency situations at the local level.
“We’re always busy with international stuff, but we certainly want to be good neighbors and if anything happens in this county we want to be at the table and involved here in Noblesville,” he says. “We’ve connected with the Good Samaritan network, and we’ve been talking to the Hamilton County Emergency group about who we are and what we do.”
Jetts adds that the uniqueness of IDES lies in its ability to enhance the reach of local churches in times of trouble.
“Instead of us just coming in, setting up, doing our thing and leaving, we’re trying to empower the people in the local communities that live there,” he says. “The local people know what their needs are and sometimes that might just be comfort and some emotional and spiritual assistance. Hopefully, after things settle down, the church can continue to reach out to the people and minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of the community.”
For additional information on IDES including a donation page, news updates and individual and group volunteer details, call 317-773-4111 or visit ides.org. Donations to IDES are tax deductible. IDES headquarters is located at 355 Park 32 West Dr. in Noblesville.