How to Help in Hurricane Response -- Update!


UPDATED Oct. 9, 2017
As thousands were forced from their homes by heavy rain and flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Southeast Texas and other areas of the Gulf Coast, people throughout the nation looked for ways to help. The Western Pennsylvania Conference office has received numerous questions from churches and individuals looking for ways to respond.  (Download a church bulletin insert/flyer)

“Right now, the best ways to help are through prayer, monetary donations to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) U.S. Disaster Response fund, and by assembling UMCOR relief kits,” said the Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk, WPAUMC Missions Coordinator, said on August 29. 

“While we may feel called to rush to the aid of those in need, the affected local areas  are usually overwhelmed and local residents are being housed in hotels and shelters. An influx of volunteers puts a strain on available resources,” she explained.

Ten days later, on Friday, Sept. 8, Texas Conference Disaster Response leaders became the first area to put out a call for volunteer teams. United Methodist Disaster Response leaders throughout the U.S. received the following email announcement:

The Texas Annual Conference is ready to receive volunteer teams to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief.  The work consists mainly of cleaning out flooded homes and requires extensive physical labor.  We would prefer that at least one member of your team be ERT trained.  Teams should bring their own protective gear and tools.  All members need proof of Safe Sanctuary training and clear background check from your local United Methodist Church.  You will be housed at a host church in the conference.  Team leaders can register their team at

Because the Texas request is for teams that include at least one certified Emergency Response Team member, Gottschalk said she and Western PA Disaster Response coordinators will try to give individuals volunteers the opportunity to serve by connecting them with others. Individuals who are not part of a team should register here.

The Louisiana Conference later on Sept. 8 also issued a call for volunteers. They requested teams of four or more people to assist those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in the Lake Charles District. 

"While the first priority is to have fully trained ERT responders, we have adjusted the strategy to address the need, the urgency and the scope of work required in the Lake Charles district," said Rev. Laraine Waughtal, Director of the Office of Missional Outreach and Engagement. "Anyone desiring to help muck out flooded homes is encouraged to visit and click through the volunteer portal. Even if the volunteers are not ERT certified, they are still allowed to arrive and help."

While it’s not necessary for anyone on the team to be fully ERT certified, they must still indicate whether someone on the team is certified, Waughtal said. All teams will be paired with an ERT certified person to accompany them on a muck out.   

“Cleanup in Texas and Louisiana will take years and we will plan to be part of the long-term recovery," Gottschalk said We plan to send a VIM team to Louisiana in February or March to help with the on-going recovery from last year’s flooding that affected Baton Rouge and other areas," Gottschalk said. 

Meanwhile on Sept. 8, a second more powerful hurricane, Irma, had devastated the tiny island of Barbuda, threatened low-lying areas of the Bahamas and other areas islands in the Carribbean and was poised to hit Florida. 

Early Response Teams 

“Our trained Early Response Teams have been poised to spring into action, but never go to an area to help until they are invited or called in by local disaster response personnel who are ready to receive and work with outside volunteers,” Gottschalk said. 

UMCOR certified training for ERTs has been on-going with the latest scheduled for Nov. 4 at First UMC in Kane and Nov. 11 at Garden City UMC in Monroeville. You can register for training using the links at


Eastbrook Mission Barn, as part of the UMCOR Relief Supply Network, specifically needed Cleaning Buckets and health/hygiene kits. These may be delivered to the Conference Center in Cranberry Twp., the Eastbrook Mission Barn or one of its satellite locations.  As of Oct. 8, the Mission Barn had a good supply of verified kits and officials at the UMCOR's main depot, Sager-Brown, in a thank you email said its shelves were full of cleaning buckets. 

Information on what to include in the cleaning buckets and health kits can be using the link on the Mission Barn webpage or directly at  

Volunteers are always welcome at the Mission Barn to verify kits ingredients and help to move them out faster. On Friday, Sept. 8, volunteers at the barn packed 1440 cleaning buckets and four pallets of health kits onto trucks donated, along with fuel and drivers, by Dzambic Trucking to get them to those in need!


UMCOR already has boots on the ground and will be distributing emergency funds to affected areas through the annual conferences affected by the flooding. You can give to UMCOR's relief and recovery efforts online through U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670 or through your local church. 

If giving directly to UMCOR, check with your employer (or former employer if you are retired) to see if you can multiply your support for UMCOR through a gift match or combined charitable campaign programs. Provide your company with UMCOR’s tax ID, 13-5562279.