|Indiana floods leave behind long-term needs |
The ground floor of Paul and Melinda Johnson’s home in Columbus, Ind., dries
out under plastic and awaits rebuilding after flooding on June 7.
A UMNS photo by Dan Gangler.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Aug. 1, 2008
When Asbury United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ind., started
sending work teams to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, its members
never realized they would one day need the same kind of help.
That changed in early June when floodwaters swept through 37 counties in
central Indiana and displaced more than 25,000 residents. One of the
hardest hit communities was Columbus, where flooding shut down Columbus
Regional Hospital and damaged schools, businesses and several hundred
The Rev. Al Styron, Asbury’s pastor, who grew up near the coast of
Mississippi, said having damage in Columbus similar to Katrina's
destruction was "the last thing we would have ever dreamed."
Flood bucket cleanup kits are stacked in the basement of
Asbury United Methodist Church.
A UMNS photo by Dan Gangler.
Although the disaster in Indiana was not on the same scale, he added, it
was "every bit as devastating for those impacted here in Columbus."
Fellow Hoosiers and others rallied to assist Indiana's flooded
communities. With help from the Midwest Mission Distribution Center,
hundreds of United Methodist congregations across the state assembled
and delivered an estimated 1,800 flood buckets filled with cleaning
Meanwhile, church members in Mississippi and Louisiana have come to the
aid of the denomination’s Indiana area. Bishop Michael Coyner received a
$10,000 check from United Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of
Mississippi and $10,000 from the Louisiana Conference and Bishop William
Hutchinson in appreciation of Indiana's support during their own
Together with a $10,000 grant from the United Methodist Committee on
Relief, $10,500 from the denomination’s Dakotas Conference and other
contributions from United Methodists in Indiana and elsewhere, about
$100,000 has been raised to respond to the Indiana floods. To date, the
South Indiana Conference disaster response team has distributed $55,000
to recovery committees in 11 communities.
Rolling up their sleeves
Work teams from Mississippi and Louisiana are scheduled to come and
assist, according to Jenni Walker, resource administrator of the South
Indiana Conference, who is helping coordinate volunteers. "It’s really
been great just to see the outpouring of the volunteers," she said.
In Columbus, the 700-plus-member Asbury church became the official
disaster center for UMCOR, providing food and housing for volunteers.
"We’ve been actively involved in the process since Day 1," Styron told
United Methodist News Service in a July 31 interview. He noted that
their local response has been helped by the experience gained by sending
teams once or twice a year to Mississippi since Katrina struck in 2005.
On June 7, the same day the flooding occurred, Asbury members served
about 400 meals at the Northside Middle School shelter. The next day,
they served some 900 breakfasts, 500 lunches and more than 300 dinners.
During the next two weeks, volunteers organized to clean up houses.
A long-term recovery committee maps out assistance plans for area residents.
A UMNS photo by Dan Gangler.
All six United Methodist churches in Columbus—Asbury, First,
Petersville, Sandy Hook, East Columbus and Mt. Olive—have worked
together to create a shared outreach ministry. Styron is part of the
long-term recovery committee, which has both ecumenical and community
members. The director of the United Way in Columbus has been named to
lead the committee.
Asbury, which has collaborated mainly with First United Methodist
Church, is working on 75 houses damaged by the flood. One of those is
the home of Paul and Melinda Johnson, who lost everything on the first
floor and currently are living with church members. Paul Johnson is the
director of Christian education at Asbury.
UMCOR provided a two-day case management training session for the
Columbus Recovery Committee at the invitation of the South Indiana
Conference, disaster response coordinators Bob Babcock and David Powell,
and the Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Volunteers
were trained to go door to door to assess any unmet needs and help
residents complete applications for FEMA and Small Business
Administration loans. Another training session took place in
Martinsville and a third session is planned Aug. 19-20 in Shelbyville.
Immediately after the flooding, Asbury members expected to skip the
planned work trip this summer to Gulfport, Miss. But the week before,
Styron said, "we had reached the point where we were in the drying stage
for about 75 houses," allowing the work crews to be in Gulfport from
June 28-July 5.
This time, their perspective was somewhat different. "Our most recent
trip created a little bit more empathy, rather than sympathy, on our
part," Styron added.
While some were in Mississippi, case managers remained in Columbus to
determine needs. Now, the process of rebuilding has begun. "We have
work crews lined up all the way through September," he said. "Then we’ll
evaluate and see where we are."
Military members and residents stack sandbags
on June 9 to reinforce levees along the swollen White River
near Elnora. A UMNS photo by by Lance Cpl. Patrick M. Johnson-Campbell.
Those responding to the Columbus flooding have mobilized to address a
number of concerns. The "angel" group, for example, is dealing with
emotional issues and determining what type of furnishings and household
goods will be needed. "Hopefully, we can cover all the bases and not
just the structural needs," Styron said.
Walker said long-term recovery sites are being set up around the
state for what could be a two-year period. Those interested in
volunteering can contact her at (812) 893-1760 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers also are needed in northwest Indiana to assist survivors
of January floods in the Remington, Monticello and Delphi areas. An
organization called Disaster Assistance for Northwest Indiana was formed
this spring by United Methodists, members of other denominations and
community groups to assist in the recovery. More information is
available at http://daniflood.org.
Hoosier United Methodists plan to bring 1,600 flood buckets and 400
health kits to an Oct. 4 special session of the area’s two conferences
at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis to help replenish supplies at
the Midwest Distribution Center.
Donations for UMCOR's relief efforts in the Midwest can be made to
Midwest flooding relief, UMCOR Advance #901670. Checks can be dropped in
church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New
York, NY 10087. Write the Advance number and name on the memo line of
the check. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583
or online at www.givetomission.org.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
York. Dan Gangler, Indiana area communicator, contributed to this
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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