|United Methodists gear up for Missouri flood relief
The Rev. Karla Cunningham (left) and Dawn Martin
discuss flood response at Asbury United Methodist Church's family life
center in Foley, Mo.
UMNS photos by Susan J. Meister, UMCOR.
A UMNS Report
By Susan J. Meister*
July 10, 2008
Dawn Martin pointed out one flooded home after another in Winfield and
Foley, Mo. "One of 'my kids' lives there," she said, sadly.
For the two weeks in June before the earthen levees failed in the river
towns along the Mississippi River, residents anticipated the coming
floods and packed, moved and stored as many of their possessions as
Missouri homes are flooded in a 13-mile stretch along the Mississippi River.
Martin, youth director at nearby St. Stephen United Methodist Church
in Troy, wanted to make sure the kids in her youth group got out of
their homes and had a place to stay. Now that floodwaters have inundated
their homes and so many others in the area, she is motivated to be part
of the long-term recovery effort.
"I want to help find the families that need help but might not ask,"
she said. "I want to help them find the resources they need."
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, in close cooperation with
the denomination’s Missouri Annual (regional) Conference, has begun the
long process of recovery in the river towns of Lincoln County. The
effort will draw on people like Martin as well as resources and
organizations throughout the community.
The flooding, about 45 miles northwest of St. Louis, occurred in late
June as the Mississippi River rose above flood stage. Missouri's
overflow was part of a region-wide pattern of heavy spring rains that
also caused severe flooding in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Water spilled into hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of
farmland in the 13-mile stretch along the river between Elsberry and
Winfield. Residents were waiting for waters to recede to begin damage
assessment, cleanup and repair. And, with levees no longer protecting
the towns, they anxiously watched forecasts for additional heavy rains.
Jeff Baker, staff with the Missouri Conference Office of Creative
Ministries, is ready to deploy volunteers when the time is right.
"Because this area has been declared for (FEMA) individual assistance,
we don't want to just run in and help because we could jeopardize the
families' ability to receive funds," he said. "When the long-term
recovery committee is in place, we will begin asking for volunteers in
mission to help rebuild."
In the meantime, Martin, Baker and others are cooperating with Sts.
Joachim and Ann Care Service, the lead agency for long-term recovery in
Lincoln, St. Charles, Warren, Montgomery and Pike counties. Sts. Joachim
and Ann has a long association with UMCOR, most recently as one of the
agencies funded by Katrina Aid Today, a case-management program that
helped local families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
“When the long-term recovery committee is in place, we will begin asking for volunteers in mission to help rebuild.” "Lincoln County was the
most affected (by recent flooding)," said Miriam Mahan, executive
director. "We are educating all the officials and organizations. Things
are coming together beautifully. We are meeting with the 'movers and
shakers' in the community, recruiting volunteer case managers, and
finding places to distribute food and cleaning supplies."
As long-term recovery begins, the work of case managers is critical
as they encourage families to register with FEMA and other agencies to
access assistance. They help connect those affected with resources and
UMCOR is recognized as the leader in the techniques of disaster case
management. Karen Benson, Missouri Conference disaster response
coordinator, will conduct the first training class for case managers in
Hannibal on July 12.
Connecting and responding
"Of course I had heard of UMCOR, but I didn't realize how the
connectional system worked until the floods," Martin said. "Within two
hours, nearby United Methodist churches delivered 350 meals to
sandbagging crews. And UMCOR is so respected in disaster response
circles. It is amazing."
"Missouri is following a proven path of local response with UMCOR
partnership," said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, executive for domestic
disaster response. "UMCOR brings money, consultation, training and
volunteer coordination to the table.
"While other volunteer organizations focus on rescue and initial
relief, UMCOR takes a holistic approach that tries to touch people's
lives throughout the process. United Methodists are involved in
everything from delivering meals, to helping with sandbags beforehand to
mucking out the houses and focusing on long-term recovery after the
Donations to help those affected by floods can be made to UMCOR
Advance #901670, Domestic Disaster Response, Midwest Floods. Drop checks
in church offering plates or mail them directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box
9068, New York, NY 10087. Write Advance #901670 Midwest Flooding Relief
on the memo line. Credit-card donations can be made by calling (800)
554-8583 or online at www.givetomission.org.
Up to 10 percent of gifts for Midwest flooding may be used to repair
United Methodist churches and their facilities that were not insured for
*Meister is domestic disaster response correspondent for UMCOR.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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