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Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service

The Rev. Kermit Roberson surveys flood damage at Roberts United Methodist Church's Plainview Cemetery in Denham Springs, La., where floodwaters lifted caskets out of their concrete burial vaults.

Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service

Edna Rajan stacks flood buckets from the United Methodist Committee on Relief at a warehouse in Lafayette, La.

Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service

The Rev. Susan Ferguson (center) prays with Trent Noel (right) and his son, Jay Barnes, while the two men take a break from gutting flood-damaged drywall. Ferguson is pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist News Service

Jeremiah (left) and Jeremain Robinson remove a waterlogged table from a home that was heavily damaged by flooding in Baton Rouge, La. The 16-year-old twins were part of a volunteer team from First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge.

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UMCOR help continues

Polly House
November-December 2016

IdeaMart

Cleaning up after a catastrophic event like a hurricane or flood isn't a quick or easy process. At best, it takes months, but sometimes, it takes years. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), United Methodists' humanitarian and disaster relief agency, is there for the long haul.

United Methodists continue at work through prayer, financial assistance, volunteer labor and providing supplies in areas affected by Hurricane Matthew in October, massive flooding in Louisiana in August and in West Virginia in June as well as in South Carolina, Texas and other sites in the United States and beyond affected by natural disasters.

Hurricane Matthew – Caribbean, Southeastern U.S.

Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, raged across Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas and the southeastern United States Oct. 4-9. It caused catastrophic damage across the islands, including in some areas of Haiti still recovering from the 2010 earthquake, before making landfall in Florida on Oct. 6. As of Oct. 12, the death toll in Haiti alone was estimated near 1,000. Matthew-related fatalities in the United States stood at 38, mostly from widespread flooding in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina.

On Oct. 7, the Rev. Jack Amick, senior director of disaster response for UMCOR, said the international response would begin with emergency supplies, a water purification program in partnership with GlobalMedic and an additional food-distribution program through the Methodist Church of Haiti. The initial financial outlay by UMCOR for Haiti will exceed $150,000. UMCOR will also assist Bahamas Methodist Habitat with a grant in response to Matthew's damage there.

In February, UMCOR hosted a training conference in Grenada to help Caribbean nations be prepared for hurricane season. Participants put what they learned into effect immediately after Matthew struck.

Greg Forrester, head of UMCOR's disaster response in the United States, was immediately in touch with disaster response coordinators in Florida (www.flumc.org), Georgia (South Georgia-www.sgaumc.org/disasterresponse, North Georgia-www.ngumc.org), North Carolina (https://nccumc.org) and South Carolina (www.umcsc.org), strategizing how and when to begin disaster relief work in those conferences.

Flooding – Louisiana

Officials declared 30 of Louisiana's 64 parishes disaster areas following massive flooding in August. Estimates say 6.9 trillion (that's trillion, with a T) gallons of water fell on Louisiana Aug. 8-14. Because

Louisiana's topography is flat, it took two months for the water levels to recede to normal. In early October, Louisiana Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey reported that some areas were still accessible only by boat.

UMCOR sent almost 5,000 cleaning buckets to Louisiana for distribution to flood survivors. Other items needed for mucking out homes are on the Louisiana Conference website, www.la-umc.org, as is information for volunteers.

Flooding – West Virginia

In June, West Virginia experienced historic flooding. Of its 55 counties, 44 were declared to be in a state of emergency and three were declared federal disaster areas.

UMCOR sent almost 2,000 cleaning buckets and 1,500 health kits to the affected areas within days of the disaster. Information for volunteers is at http://wvumc.org/About/Ministries/Disaster-Response.

Ways to help

Prayer is the first, most powerful way to support survivors. Pray as you listen to newscasts and see photos and videos showing the devastation.

Understanding that United Methodists with generous hearts want to help with their hands, Forrester gives this advice: "The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance #901670 with your donations. This will allow us to assist the most vulnerable communities in need because of this and other disasters." The new cleaning buckets will replace those already distributed from UMCOR's supply depots.

People often want to volunteer in person, but that best guided by timing, rather than desire. "Do not self-deploy," Forrester emphasizes. "Your presence could unintentionally become an obstacle."

UMCOR strongly encourages churches and individuals wanting to volunteer to go to the UMCOR website  or to the individual annual conference websites to learn what assistance is needed and how to volunteer. Information will be posted and updated as needs become known.

Polly House, editorial assistant, Interpreter