While hard to believe, it has been nearly 4 1/2 years since the June 23, 2016 storms and flood disaster that impacted 44 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, 12 of which were in the disaster zone declared by the federal goverment.
National Weather Service reported that three large, organized storms converged on the region that day, producing massive damage and what was called a 1,000-year flood.
In response, and with advice from UMCOR and FEMA, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, who was soon on the ground in the disaster zone with UMCOR officials, called for the appointment of a long-term disaster recovery team to work in collaboration with the WVUMC Disaster Response Ministry to address overwhelming needs of survivors and communities.
Recently retired Rev. Jack Lipphardt was asked to work along with then-assistant to the Bishop Rev. JF Lacaria to give direction to WVUMC recovery efforts. Quickly, disaster case managers Miranda Nabers and Tapiwa Grace Msisha and construction coordinators Buck Edwards and Chad Faris were brought on board.
As the team winds down its work on December 31 after 4.5 years together, Lipphardt reflected on the close bond among team members and gathered the following details of their work.
Just over $4 million was spent in the region, mostly from UMCOR grants, as well as direct contributions, most of which were through the West Virginia Annual Conference and The United Methodist Foundation of WV, Inc. UMCOR staff offered continuous praise for the WVUM Disaster Recovery Team and the quality of its work.
Over 2,000 individual volunteers on 135 mission work teams spent one to eight days (averaging five workdays each) with value of labor in excess of $1.5 million. The volunteers included Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball and her cabinet.
Representing the West Virginia Conference, the disaster recovery team oversaw repairs to 120 homes, 104 rebuilds, 29 full new builds, and reconstruction and repair activity with several churches.
Case managers closed 162 cases, with four soon to be completed, collaborating with RISE West Virginia Disaster Recovery Program on 19 additional cases.
Six bridges were replaced, including one with the partnership of the West Virginia Wesleyan College football team.
We provided funding at county Long Term Recovery Committees or the statewide LTRC for nearly 500 cases outside our direct caseload, many of which were in partnership with ecumenical and secular organizations such as our Catholic, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, WV VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), Save the Children, American Red Cross, and regional United Way friends. The West Virginia Annual Conference, outside FEMA, has been the largest funder assisting disaster survivors to recover across the region.
We give a huge nod to the partnership among the 2016 Disaster Recovery team, our conference Disaster Response ministry (Rev. Dan and Rev. Sue Lowther), and West Virginia United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (Rev. David Stilgenbauer).
Lipphardt said, “We may be dissolving our team, having completed the task given us, but we have forged personal ties that are enduring. Thanks be to God for the Lord’s presence with us, and especially through the Conference, with our disaster survivors.”
Follow this link to review the January 2017 Disaster Recovery magazine produced by the West Virginia Conference Communications Department. The magazine offers stories of hope and boots on the ground reflections by clergy and laity across the West Virginia Conference.