Planning Puts Local Church in Forefront of Ministry to Retirement Community
By Susan J. Meister*
October 9, 2008—"We are trying to think of a way to thank the people of Christ UMC," said Ed Bell, executive director, Edgewater Retirement Community. "What they've done is too big."
Residents and staff members of Edgewater evacuated to the College Station church, about 150 miles northwest of Galveston, on Thursday, September 11, as Hurricane Ike approached the island. Nearly fifty volunteers from the church and nearby Crestview Retirement Community were waiting to assist the 110 residents from Edgewater and about fifty staff with their families. The church's fellowship hall is a former psychiatric hospital that the church converted. It has a commercial kitchen, access to supplies and a good layout to serve the retirement community.
Christ UMC is one of about sixty churches in the Texas Conference ministering to the needs of those affected by Hurricane Ike. Cynthia Harvey, director of missional excellence for the Texas Conference, said that many have worked directly in relief efforts, from serving as shelters, assembling flood buckets, and hosting and sending work teams.
"The time to plan for disaster response - both in relief and recovery - is before the disaster occurs," explained Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR domestic disaster response executive. "It's been my experience that the most successful church outreach is the one that is well-planned in advance. During UMCOR training, we always encourage our churches to write their own disaster plan and then make a deliberate decision of how to be in ministry to their communities.
"The agreement that Edgewater has with Christ UMC is an example of how planning can lead to successful ministry," he added.
Staff Members Suffer Loss
Ron Jennette, Methodist Retirement Communities (MRC) president and CEO, explains that many of the staff members who evacuated with the residents have lost their homes or belongings. "We are working with them regarding FEMA assistance and more." In one corner of the large dining hall, the Edgewater human resources department was helping staff members with paperwork for insurance and FEMA.
Widespread flooding from the storm surge of Ike affected downtown Galveston. The Edgewater complex, across the street the sea wall, experienced wind and water damage. In addition, the infrastructure of Galveston was severely damaged by the storm, and crews have been working to restore electrical, water and sewer services.
Preparing for The Long Term Response
As the staff of MRC and Edgewater look for ways to care for the residents, families in Galveston and towns all across southeast Texas are assessing damage to their homes and making plans to rebuild. The Texas Conference is working with UMCOR to put a long term organization in place to help survivors, especially those who are underinsured or uninsured.
"Unfortunately, Ike has dropped out of the headlines," Hazelwood said. "But the residents and staff of Edgewater, like so many others, have a long recovery ahead. The Texas Conference, UMCOR and the United Methodist Church will engage in the ministry of helping churches and communities recover."
You can help with the recovery from the 2008 Hurricanes with a donation to Advance No. 3019695, online or by check to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. In addition, mission volunteers will be needed to help with clean up and rebuilding. Contact your jurisdictional United Methodist Volunteers in Mission(UMVIM) coordinator, or go to the Texas Conference web site to register your team.
All churches are encouraged to engage in disaster preparedness planning, both for their own facility and congregation, and for their communities. Go to the UMCOR domestic disaster response and training web site, or contact your conference disaster response coordinator for more information and to schedule UMCOR training.
*Meister is the Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR