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Within hours after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida and brought devastation in its wake, Southeastern University professor Dr. Robert Houlihan was busy making sure essential supplies were on their way to the areas hardest hit.
Convoy of Hope is leading the Assemblies of God relief efforts in Florida. Crossroads Alliance and Ministries, founded by Houlihan and Steve Ewing in 2005, coordinated with Convoy of Hope for the relief supplies to be distributed in the Florida Keys, which experienced Irma as a Category 4 hurricane. Crossroads partnered with Aero Bridge, a group of private pilots, who flew the plane to a private airstrip, where local church members met to unload and distribute the supplies.
From September 13 to 16, over 25 flights had been loaded with supplies and flown around the state.
“Compassion is love in action. The church should be involved in word and deed. We always go where there is a need,” said Houlihan.
Crossroads was founded just a year after four hurricanes devastated Florida in 2004. Houlihan, professor of world missions at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, founded the nonprofit with Ewing after they realized a need for relief initiatives to help in times of disaster.
Houlihan served as a missionary with the Assemblies of God for 21 years in Japan, 11 years as the field director of Asia Pacific, and has taught at Southeastern since 2006.
The mission of Crossroads is to connect people in need with life essentials such as food, water, medical supplies, and education. In order to work in areas of need, Crossroads partners with local churches in the areas that have been affected.
Crossroads receives donations from individuals, corporations, churches, and non-governmental organizations. The donations are then stored in their 250,000-square-foot warehouse before being distributed to areas in need.
Houlihan shares that Crossroads works primarily with churches. “Local churches are the key in the whole thing,” said Houlihan
In the same year that it was founded, Crossroads served as first responders, sending over 60 truckloads of supplies to Louisiana and Mississippi, areas that had been affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Crossroads was also highly involved in relief efforts in Haiti’s 2010 earthquake providing over 150 truckloads of supplies. The Royal Carribbean offered their ships to the organization in order to transport supplies from Florida to Haiti.
Now, seven years later, with the devastation left by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and parts of Florida, Crossroads was one of the first to respond through providing food and water, as well as medical and baby supplies, to those in need.
When the first airplanes landed in the Lakeland Linder Airport, Houlihan, along with a group of Southeastern staff and students, helped unload supplies from the planes. The supplies were then loaded in a trailer and driven to Bayside Community Church's Hardee Campus in Wauchula.
Soon after Irma hit Florida, FEMA designated Crossroads as the recipient of all of their donated products. The supplies were staged at their warehouse before they were transported south. So far, in addition to flying supplies to the Keys, they have sent more than 50 truckloads of supplies all across the state of Florida, and they do not plan on slowing down anytime soon.