UMCOR Sager Brown Ships Relief Supplies to Neighbors Nearby and Across the World
By Susan J. Meister*
September 19, 2008—Over the past week, UMCOR Sager Brown Depot, UMCOR's relief supply warehouse in Baldwin, La., has been buzzing with activity as volunteers and staff work to assemble and ship relief supplies to locations along the US Gulf Coast and to the country of Georgia.
Trailers and truckloads of flood buckets, health kits and generators were sent to several locations in Texas and Louisiana for distribution to families affected by the wind and water of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Two forty-foot containers filled with health kits, school kits, layette kits, bedding packs and sewing kits were sent to Tblisi, Georgia, where the UMCOR office is assisting people displaced by recent armed conflict.
"This is awesome," said Kathy Kraiza, executive director of UMCOR Sager Brown. "On one day, we were loading flood buckets onto trucks, putting a container together to ship overseas to Georgia, assembling more flood buckets, and cleaning up our own grounds from Gustav and Ike."
"The folks at Sager Brown have done an incredible job," added Amy Mercer, deputy director of Louisiana Conference Disaster Response. "In less than a week, they got all those flood buckets where they needed to be!"
Flood Buckets and More Sent to Louisiana and Texas
Kraiza reports that a total of 8,935 flood buckets have been sent out so far this week from Sager Brown Depot, MERCI Mission Center (North Carolina), and Midwest Mission Distribution Center (Illinois). Nearly 3,000 health kits were sent to five locations in Louisiana. Fifteen generators were sent to Texas -Vidor (east of Beaumont) and La Porte (southeast of Houston). As more supplies arrive at UMCOR Sager Brown, Kraiza and her staff will send them on to the Texas Conference.
Nearly 4,000 flood buckets were sent to eight locations in Louisiana, including 510 to Franklin, just seven miles down the road from Baldwin. The buckets and health kits were distributed from First UMC in just a few hours. While Sager Brown and Baldwin did not suffer major damage from the recent storms, there is extensive flooding in Franklin.
Additional flood buckets and health kits were sent to Abbeville UMC, the location of the Southwest Louisiana disaster recovery ministry. Since 2005, ministry offices in Lake Charles, Abbeville, and Dulac have been working on rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Rita. This week, staff switched into relief mode, and contacted clients to offer flood buckets and other assistance. "We've heard so many times 'We never thought we'd see a storm like this (Rita) in our lifetime and, now, three years later...,'" said case manager Ronda Trahan.
At another staging area at Sweet Lake UMC, Cameron Parish, families lined up to receive buckets, health kits, MREs (meals ready to eat), water and tarps. Staff from the Southwest Louisiana Lake Charles office loaded up their pickup truck with items, drove through the devastated areas of Cameron Parish, and delivered items where they saw homeowners working.
Kevin Hodge, site manager for the Lake Charles office, has been working to rebuild homes in Cameron Parish for nearly three years. Filled with emotion, he drove through the area and pointed out house after house that the station had helped rebuild. "It just looks like these homes were put into a shredder," sighed case manager Landie Thompson.
"We need to do this," affirmed station manager Barbara Abshire. "We need to give our clients hope."
"It has been neat to see our churches step forward to meet the needs of the people," added Amy Mercer.
Volunteer Work Makes an Immediate Impact
At Sager Brown, volunteers from the North Alabama Conference scurried to assemble cleaning supplies into flood buckets. As they were completed, they were loaded onto trucks and trailers waiting on the loading dock. Todd King and David Annas, volunteers from First UMC, Granite Falls, North Carolina, drove the UMCOR truck to Abbeville, where staff and four members of the National Guard quickly unloaded buckets and lined them up four-high along the walls of the education building.
John Vining, pastor at Abbeville UMC, carried four flood buckets at a time. "We're doin' okay," he said. "This certainly brings back memories, but we're ready to gear up. It's so sad to see these homes damaged. But we did it once and we can do it again.
"This time I think we are better prepared to meet the needs sooner," he continued.
UMCOR staff will continue to consult with both the Texas and Louisiana Conferences as they continue relief efforts and move into recovery operations.
How to Help
There is an urgent need for assembled flood buckets to replenish the supply at UMCOR Sager Brown and other warehouse locations. Congregations and individuals are urged to send completed buckets, bulk materials or a contribution to purchase supplies. A list of the contents can be found here/a> a="">/> a="">/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>.
Financial gifts to UMCOR Advance #3019695, Hurricanes 2008, help us provide immediate on-the-ground support to volunteers, annual conferences and interfaith response efforts, and to begin support for long-term recovery. You can support UMCOR's work in Georgia, including its response to the conflict by giving to Georgia Emergency, UMCOR Advance #250305.
Contact your Jurisdictional Volunteer in Mission Coordinator for information about volunteering. We anticipate that it will be some weeks before the area is secured and housing set up for general volunteers.
*Meister is UMCOR's Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent