UMCOR Helps Flooded Midwest Communities Move Toward Long-Term Recovery
By Susan J Meister*
As communities in southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin continue on the long road of recovery following severe flooding in August 2007, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is there, helping them every step of the way.“UMCOR is wonderful to work with,” said Bille LaBumbard, mission staff at the Wisconsin annual conference. “They provide mentors and training to help us respond.” UMCOR’s disaster response methodology resources annual conference personnel and local church members to help them not only respond to current needs, but future ones as well.
“We bring the experience of working on other disasters to the response in these areas,” explained Tom Hazelwood, head of UMCOR’s disaster response in the United States. “Now that our involvement in the emergency phase is winding down, UMCOR will be a full partner with these annual conferences and other agencies active in disaster response as they plan their recovery.”
How UMCOR Helps
UMCOR provided both annual conferences with emergency grants in the early phases of the disaster at the request of Bishops Sally Dyck and Linda Lee to be part of the relief and recovery process. Now that the initial emergency is over, UMCOR works with the annual conferences and affected communities to establish a long-term recovery ministry which will seeks permanent solutions to the problems caused by this disaster. United Methodists are active in the process of establishing long-term recovery committees (LTRCs) under guidelines developed and refined by the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD). Christy Tate Smith, an UMCOR disaster response specialist, is advising both conferences in this process.
UMCOR has also begun training case management staff to work with homeowners affected by the flooding to write and execute their recovery plans. Case managers will develop relationships with survivors and connect them to organizations that can best help them, especially those families who are uninsured or underinsured. The generosity of United Methodists who gave to UMCOR Advance #901670, Domestic Disaster Response—Midwest Floods, will make funds available to those who need assistance.
Minnesotans Clean Up and Move to Next Phase
The latest figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report that over 5,000 persons over seven counties have registered for assistance.
The Minnesota conference Early Disaster Response Team was active in the clean-up effort from the first call for help. Anne Harvell, conference disaster response coordinator, explains that, in many cases, clean up moved quickly. “Now we are in our planning phase,” she said. “United Methodists will participate with over 44 other organizations in the long-term process.”
The town of Rushford, MN, was especially hard-hit by flooding. Laura Deering, a member of McKinley UMC in Winona, is a member of the City Council and has been involved in the response since the storm dropped 17” of rain in her community.
“I have been amazed at all the groups that have shown up to help,” she said. “And I am so appreciative of Christy (Tate Smith) – she gave me suggestions for long term recovery and direct answers to my questions.”
According to Harvell, case management has started and the conference is recruiting Volunteer in Mission (VIM) teams to help winterize and rebuild damaged homes. Harvell also reports that a donation from a construction company will be used to construct a men’s dormitory of the church basement at McKinley UMC for volunteer housing.
Wisconsin Moves Quickly to Establish Regional Recovery Offices
The FEMA reports for Wisconsin also indicate that nearly 5,000 persons have applied for assistance over 14 counties.
David Sharpe, Wisconsin conference coordinator, says that four regions will be established for long term recovery. The office in Region 1, La Crosse, is up and running. Christy Smith was in Wisconsin the last week of October to train nearly 20 staff and volunteer case managers.
“A Workforce Development Grant is helping to fund positions in our regional offices,” Sharpe explained. “We feel we are about 75% put together – moving along fairly well.” Sharpe commented that FEMA has been very responsive as they work into recovery.
Long-Term Recovery—an UMCOR Specialty
After the news cameras and reporters leave an area, UMCOR helps local communities with their long term recovery. Through established positive relationships with the Minnesota and Wisconsin annual conferences, UMCOR will assist with advice, funds, training and volunteer coordination to help families rebuild.
“We urge our generous United Methodists to continue to help these families,” said Sam Dixon, Deputy General Secretary, UMCOR. “Gifts to the Domestic Disaster Response Advance will help make long-term recovery possible, especially for the most vulnerable in their communities.”
Deering, who has worked tirelessly since August to help clean-up, is deeply concerned about the future of all the citizens of her community. “I want to keep the momentum going,” she exclaimed. “I want Rushford to be beautiful again.”
How You Can Help
To give to Advance #901670, Domestic Disaster Response – Midwest Floods, mail a check to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY, 10087 or go to the www.givetomission.org and enter the Advance number to give online. Donors can also help replenish supplies of flood buckets for future disaster response; more information about buckets and other relief supplies is available at here.
*Meister is UMCOR’s Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent