UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2009 / 0129- Cleaning Buckets a Tangible Expression of Care

Cleaning Buckets a Tangible Expression of Care

By Susan J. Meister*

January 29, 2009—"Cleaning buckets" bring hope to survivors in all types of disaster situations, including fires, earthquakes and floods. Ms. Kathy Kraiza, executive director of UMCOR Sager Brown (USB), the material resource ministry of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has recommended that the five gallon buckets filled with cleaning supplies, formerly called "flood buckets," now be called cleaning buckets.

"The bleach, masks and gloves can be used for mold removal after floods," she explained, "but they can be used in other clean-ups as well. We include detergent, trash bags, rags - supplies that can be used in a variety of disaster situations."

Staff and volunteers at the Depot in Baldwin, La., are receiving and assembling cleaning buckets in anticipation of the need in 2009. In 2008, UMCOR Sager Brown shipped over 20,000 buckets to locations in the Midwest (in response to June flooding) and along the Gulf Coast (after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike made landfall in September).

"The number of buckets shipped was second only to the number we shipped in 2005 (the year of Katrina and Rita), when we handled 46,000," said Ms. Kraiza The level of response was remarkable, considering that the USB campus was evacuated for nearly a week when Gustav blew over southern Louisiana.

Congregations and individuals are encouraged to send completed cleaning buckets, bulk materials or a contribution to purchase supplies. "We want to build up the inventory," she said, "so that we have adequate supplies before a disaster strikes, especially spring flooding and the start of hurricane season."

Buckets Can Make a Theological “Statement”

In a press release, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward noted the theological significance of participation in cleaning bucket and material resource ministry. "(Cleaning) buckets are tangible signs of prayers, love and support," she said. "The simple, necessary things in the buckets are gifts that lift the hearts of those who face cleaning out, cleaning up and rebuilding. We thank those who join the flood of compassion as they assemble buckets for someone who will receive the blessing."

"Last summer, our conference, with assistance from the Alabama Conference, provided 500 buckets to the Mississippi delta within three days of flooding," reports Ms. Brenda Hiatt, who along with husband Rex, are coordinating relief kits. "Just recently, 125 buckets were dispatched to east Mississippi before the water even receded. Flood buckets give survivors the tools to make the task of clean up a little less overwhelming."

Bernice McGinnis, Yazoo County Emergency Management, agreed. "Thank you for the buckets. The cleaning supplies helped them get their homes back in order," she said. "But most of all, the thought that was put into putting them together and bringing them out was what made them feel better in that bad situation."

How You Can Help

Cleaning buckets are five gallon reusable containers that are filled with supplies that enable people to begin the overwhelming job of cleaning up after a flood, hurricane, tropical storm, or fire. UMCOR and its affiliates collect, package and ship buckets all over the United States. Click here for a full list of contents.

You and your congregation are encouraged to assemble flood buckets or to send contributions to UMCOR to help with the ministry. Financial contributions can be made to UMCOR Material Resources Advance #901440. Each bucket is valued at $55.

For more information about volunteering to assist at UMCOR Sager Brown or to learn about other relief kits, go to the USB web site.

* Meister is Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR.