Texas Conference Begins Organizing for Long Term Response in Galveston
By Susan J. Meister*
Bishop Janice R. Huie and Texas Conference leadership have asked Eddie Hilliard to combine his heart for mission and background in business to organize the response to Hurricane Ike in Galveston County with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The area experienced extensive wind and storm surge damage when the hurricane passed over Galveston Island in September.
Hilliard has asked two fellow Texans to lead the start-up team - Lee Thornton, family advocate manager, and Alan Miller, construction supervisor. Thornton, a missions coordinator for the South District, has been welcoming emergency response teams for the area, and Miller has spent the last three years supervising construction in Port Arthur as part of the Rita Recovery effort organized in 2005.
"As we move into recovery, the organizing piece is critical," explained Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR's domestic disaster response executive. "Not only will the Texas Conference scope out their response, but they will also plug into the long term effort being organized by government, agencies and other faith-based groups.
"UMCOR will continue to provide consulting and training help to the conference," he continued, "with as much funding as we can through the giving response to Hurricanes 2008 Advance."
Key resources being identified
Both Hillard and Miller were active participants in a recent organizing meeting for the Galveston County Long Term Recovery Committee. Nearly forty people from more than 20 organizations met to discuss disaster case management, unmet needs, construction, volunteers, resources, communications and advocacy. Thornton will be part of the case work committee.
Hilliard is working with Friendswood UMC to set up office space. League City UMC will serve as a staging area for tools and supplies for volunteer teams. Thornton is planning to use office space for family advocacy in Friendswood, Moody Memorial UMC, Galveston, and Freeport UMC.
On Galveston Island, volunteers have been working on Crockett Place UMC to prepare it to house long-term teams. Don Waddleton, South District Superintendent, explained that the church had already decided to merge with Moody Memorial UMC before the storm.
"We had talked about how the building could possibly be used," he said. "This made the congregation extremely proud that it would still be used as a place to do ministry."
Additional churches are lining up to house volunteers for the recovery effort.
Rita Recovery, now Disaster Recovery, reaches west
Since Hurricane Rita made landfall in September 2005, devastating southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, Rita Recovery has been working to rebuild homes in the Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur communities. Angela Baker, executive director, has renamed the ministry to Disaster Recovery , and is ready to "jump right in (to Ike response) without skipping a beat."
(Read more about the ongoing ministry in southeast Texas in the November 2008 issue of Bright Spots. )
In addition to work in their geographic area and neighboring Chambers County, Baker and her staff are reaching out to their neighbors to the west to offer training and assistance. Last week, Thornton spent two days with the staff learning more about family advocacy (case management).
"Our plan is forming and we have a great group of volunteers," Thornton said. Family advocates use UMCOR case management techniques of to help families write individual recovery plans, navigate government and insurance paperwork, and access resources to address unmet needs.
How you can help
"We need money, materials and volunteers," says Hilliard. "And keep us in your prayers that we can help the people that need our help," added Thornton.
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. 100% of your gifts to this and other UMCOR Advance Specials will be used to help survivors of natural disasters. Those interested in volunteering to help with the rebuilding effort can contact their jurisdictional volunteers in mission coordinator or go to the Texas Conference web site to register.
*Meister is the Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR.