“A New Vision with Hope” UMCOR report

By JF Lacaria

“The West Virginia Conference has – and continues to – set the bar high for meaningful disaster ministry that is making the difference for so many! It is our privilege to explore every creative way possible to support your work.”  

Cathy Earl, Director, UMCOR Disaster Response

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been a God-send in our work toward total recovery from the crippling floods that devastated West Virginia in early summer of 2016. UMCOR arrived on the scene and walked through the impacted neighborhoods five days after the event. They gave our conference $10,000 in immediate emergency relief while counseling us through a rapid application for an additional $500,000 in recovery funds; later they supported our request for an additional $750,000 to carry us to the end of this “New Vision with Hope.”

Together, we seek to move all flood survivors to housing that is safe, sanitary and secure. UMCOR is more than our partner, it is an expression of our better selves. That is because you, the members of the West Virginia Conference, are UMCOR. UMCOR is not some distant agency of the general church. It is you, and me, working together to help survivors reach their dreams – you are UMCOR. As we repair and rebuild homes, we are UMCOR. When we volunteer to use our talents Volunteer in Mission (VIM) teams, we are UMCOR. When we contribute our time and money to help others in their recovery, we are UMCOR.

UMCOR does not employ a staff of responders who sweep in to pick up, clean up, and build up broken neighborhoods, it works through our contributions of labor and resources. UMCOR does not bring professionals into the impacted area to advise, establish plans and leave quickly, it arrives early and leaves late because it is made up of local United Methodists who live here, worship here, and serve here. UMCOR does not ship in relief supplies from far away, it activates a network of depots, including our New Vision Depot, so that your flood buckets and health kits stay inside our conference where all the contributed supplies are warehoused for distribution at a moment’s notice.

Here are some facts: with UMCOR’s guidance we were able to hire two case managers and two on-site work coordinators. From this strong base, the West Virginia Conference interacted directly with 112 survivor families, making repairs to 72 homes, rebuilding an additional 64 dwellings, and replacing completely 11 residences, assisting over 300 individuals.

Local United Methodist churches, in partnership with UMCOR, Catholic Charities, Voluntary Organizations Assisting in Disasters (VOAD), local United Ways, Mennonite Disaster Services, World Renew, and other UM churches and ecumenical partners, we have hosted 64 teams made up of 915 volunteers contributing 28,000 hours of labor valued at $600,000.00. We have provided $1.2 million in relief dollars from WV Conference disaster recovery funds and $1 million UMCOR funds. The WV Conference has contributed $150,000 in-kind goods and services to long-term recovery. And the work is ongoing as we enter the peak of the summer volunteer team season.

Hear these words of praise from UMCOR’s General Agency staff:

“As usual, the West Virginia Conference is accomplishing many great things in many ways, your efforts are outstanding and the difference you are making in people’s lives is invaluable. Thank you for all you have done and are doing.”  Scott Tibbetts, Program Manager for US Disaster Response.

“The West Virginia United Methodist Conference response to the flooding and the subsequent establishment of your recovery program are among my most memorable and gratifying experiences! The support of Conference leadership – Bishop Sandra, Cabinet and Conference staff – was stellar, insightful, intuitive, and determined, making all the difference! Of course, your program staff turned the vision into concrete reality and meaningful recovery for so many. Here at the National VOAD conference this week I have heard numerous comments about the WVUMC being “the best”.  The comments reflect deep respect and appreciation for the intentionality of the WVUMC being collaborative and living into our calling.” Catherine Earl, Director of Disaster Response and U.S. Partner Relations

These words of praise are for you, the people of the United Methodist Church in the West Virginia Conference, as you continue to remember flood survivors in your prayers, open your hearts with flood buckets, health kits and monetary gifts and offerings, open your churches to host work teams, and support UMCOR Sunday. You are UMCOR and this is your UMCOR report.