Truly the hands and feet of Christ a local faith-based organization, Christ In Action (CIA), is living up to their primary goal of bringing hope to America’s families. In disaster situations across America CIA volunteers help those who cannot help themselves. The organization invites the community to come tour their new facility in Elkwood, Virginia on Saturday, August 18 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Relocating from their current space in Warrenton, CIA plans to fully occupy their new warehouse in Elkwood this fall. Tours will be provided during their open house on the 18th and attendees can see their fleet and equipment, enjoy live music, free food and give-a-ways.
CIA began as an evangelistic organization founded in 1982 by Executive Director David Nissley and his wife Sandy. Located in Manassas for over twenty years, they began reaching out to disaster areas around the United States growing their disaster relief team to include their current fleet of fifty-three pieces of rolling stock (trucks, trailers and heavy equipment) and countless volunteers. With over 2 million dollars’ worth of equipment they are ready to deploy for disaster relief at any given time.
CIA moved to Warrenton in 2013 where they remained until their recent purchase of the Elkwood warehouse this year. During a recent warehouse tour Chris Zitzmann, CIA Director of Operations, acknowledged that much of the work in the new warehouse is volunteer labor and engineering; some of whom have travelled from North Carolina, Maryland and Texas. “Texas has probably been the furthest for this project,” said Zitmann. The office expansion includes an additional 1,000 square feet of space with shower facilities and office and conference space. Getting by with a little help from friends Bobcat of Northern Virginia is loaning CIA a powerbrush so they can clean their new lot and DSI (Demolition Services Incorporation) is providing them with a roll off and power lift to simplify their relocation efforts.
“A couple years ago we prayed and began planning to buy a larger space. We planned for a 40,000 square foot space which would have costed us 4.1 million dollars and ended up purchasing the current warehouse space for 1.2 million instead, encompassing 40,100 square feet. Since the mid-90s, or before, the warehouse belonged to US Green Fiber where they manufactured fertilizer and insulation. They didn’t need it anymore and we were interested and signed March 6 of this year. We immediately began moving equipment down from Warrenton and began renovations and office expansion,” said Zitzmann
In addition to disaster relief, CIA has been offering Disaster Preparedness Seminars since 2013. The seminars cover how to prepare family units for disaster as well as businesses and organizations. They proceed with how to integrate that into the community. The next seminar will be held October 20th at Stafford Crossing in Fredericksburg, VA. Additional upcoming trainings include Chaplain Basic Training and Assisting Individuals in Crisis (AIC). Further information can be found on their website.
CIA executed their biggest deployment ever during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They received and distributed 100 million dollars’ worth of product to those in need on the Gulf Coast. “FIMA told us we had the single largest feeding and distribution site on the Gulf Coast during Katrina,” said Zitzmann. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, 294 CIA volunteers from 25 states were deployed for disaster relief. In November of 2017 USA Today said that eighty percent of the relief for recent disasters has been coming from faith-based communities. “More and more governments are looking to churches for more support,” said Zitzmann.
Reflecting on the history of CIA Zitzmann said, “One of the highlights for us was coordinating the food at the Pentagon parking lot after 9/11. My wife, Bethany, served 5,000 breakfasts by 7 a.m. every day. Another highlight was when President G.W. Bush visited our site during Katrina.”
Walking through the warehouse Zitzmann said they are in the first of three phases of development. Developing the office space has been recognized as first and foremost so they can fully relocate from their current Warrenton location by fall and begin conquering phase two which includes replacing the garage doors; installing emergency generators and adding a walk-in refrigerator/freezer to store donated food items. This phase also includes the installation of ramps and shelving to better maintain the fleet. The third phase includes building another structure, on the far side of the warehouse lot, designed for a maintenance shop.
Zitzmann looped back around to the volunteers and expressed appreciation for their time, dedication and skills while also mentioning some of the businesses that have donated materials and services including Capitol Building Supply (Marshall, VA); Jim Aukamp Flooring (Drumore, PA); Groves Hardware (Remington, VA); CP Johnson Lumber (Elkwood, VA); Cherry Street Lumber, R.W. Kilby Wire & Water and VAMAC Plumbing Supply (Culpeper, VA).
While there are plenty of volunteer opportunities CIA’s most immediate needs are for skilled electricians, roofers and plumbers; Master HVAC Certified Designer and an NICET Certified Fire Sprinkler Installer. Volunteer needs and openings, as well as information about a workday on Saturday, August 11, can be found on their website at www.christinaction.com.