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:
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 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 http://www.txcumc.org/
"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 LouisianaDisasterResponse.com 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.