Date of Conferral





Human Services


Sandra M. Harris


Researchers have revealed that rural African American communities, which have been adversely impacted by disasters, could minimize personal injuries and property damage by being prepared before a disaster strikes. Data from past studies have shown that social networks, such as faith-based organizations (FBOs), have been instrumental in assisting rural African American communities recover from disasters such as floods and fires. This exploratory qualitative case study addressed the research question: How a rural, FBO organized resources to build a community based, all-volunteer fire department. The conceptual framework for this study incorporated concepts from social network theory and social capital theory. Purposeful sampling was used to recruit 11 participants. Data were collected through interviews, newspapers articles, and church documents. Data were analyzed using inductive analysis and Colaizzi's method for determining emergent themes. Results revealed that community members lacked the knowledge and resources needed to build the fire department. Findings further revealed that the FBO was the hub of activities where social networks organized the social capital needed to engage, recruit, and unite members in building the fire station. The themes of determination, dedication, resilience, and persistence further revealed that community members used social networks and social capital to overcome obstacles to building the fire station. Findings from this study contributes to positive social change by providing information to human services professionals, government agencies, policy makers, and community members on how FBOs can be utilized as social networks that can leverage the social capital needed to prepare isolated, rural communities for disasters.