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Flooded Midwest communities move toward recovery

Members of the Minnesota Annual (regional) Conference Early Disaster Response Team help with cleanup in Stockton, Minn., one of the many towns hit by flooding in August. A UMNS photo by Donald Anderson.

A UMNS Report
By Susan J. Meister*

Nov. 14, 2007

Communities in southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin continue to recover from the severe floods of last August with assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

"UMCOR is wonderful to work with," said Bille LaBumbard, a mission staff member with the denomination’s Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference. "They provide mentors and training to help us respond."

The churchwide agency is bringing its disaster relief experience to all phases of the flood recovery, according to Tom Hazelwood, head of UMCOR’s domestic disaster response.

"Now that our involvement in the emergency phase is winding down, UMCOR will be a full partner with these annual conferences and other agencies active in disaster response as they plan their recovery," Hazelwood said.

Volunteers unload flood buckets in
Gays Mills, Wis. A UMNS photo
courtesy of the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.

UMCOR provided both annual conferences with emergency grants in the early phases of flooding at the request of Bishops Sally Dyck and Linda Lee.

Now that the initial emergency is over, UMCOR will help the conferences and affected communities establish long-term recovery ministries. Long-term recovery committees are being developed under guidelines from National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, with assistance from Christy Tate Smith, an UMCOR disaster response specialist.

UMCOR also has begun training case management staff to work with homeowners to write and execute their recovery plans. Case managers will develop relationships with survivors and connect them with helping organizations, especially for families who are uninsured or underinsured.

Minnesota response

More than 5,000 people in seven Minnesota counties have registered for assistance, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Minnesota Conference Early Disaster Response Team responded quickly to the cleanup effort, according to Anne Harvell, conference coordinator.

"Now we are in our planning phase," Harvell said. "United Methodists will participate with over 44 other organizations in the long-term process."

The town of Rushford was especially hard hit. Laura Deering, a member of both the town council and McKinley United Methodist Church in Winona, has been involved in the response since the storm dropped 17 inches of rain on her community.

"I have been amazed at all the groups that have shown up to help," she said. "And I am so appreciative of Christy (Tate Smith). She gave me suggestions for long-term recovery and direct answers to my questions."

Deering expressed concern about the future of all the citizens of Rushford. "I want to keep the momentum going. I want Rushford to be beautiful again," she said.

Harvell said the conference is recruiting Volunteer in Mission teams to help winterize and rebuild damaged homes. A donation from a construction company will go to build a men’s dormitory to house volunteers in the church basement at McKinley United Methodist Church.

Wisconsin response

In Wisconsin, nearly 5,000 people have applied for assistance in 14 counties, according to FEMA.

"We urge our generous United Methodists to continue to help these families."
–The Rev. Sam Dixon, UMCOR

Four regions will be established for long-term recovery, and the office in La Crosse already is up and running. In late October, Smith trained nearly 20 staff and volunteer case managers.

"A workforce development grant is helping to fund positions in our regional offices," said David Sharpe, Wisconsin Conference coordinator. "We feel we are about 75 percent put together (and) moving along fairly well."

Through the annual conferences, UMCOR will continue to assist with advice, funds, training and volunteer coordination as families rebuild.

"We urge our generous United Methodists to continue to help these families," said the Rev. Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s chief executive. "Gifts to the Domestic Disaster Response Advance will help make long-term recovery possible, especially for the most vulnerable in their communities."

To give to Advance #901670, Domestic Disaster Response – Midwest Floods, place a contribution in local church offering plates or mail a check directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Credit card donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or visiting www.givetomission.org. Donors also can replenish supplies of flood buckets for future disaster response. To learn more, visit www.umcor.org.

*Meister is UMCOR’s domestic disaster response correspondent.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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United Methodist Committee on Relief

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Minnesota Annual Conference

Wisconsin Annual Conference

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