First to respond…and still keeping the promise


One of the homes in the Howard’s Creek neighborhood in White Sulphur Springs, WV, immediately following the June 2016 flooding.

“Others came and went, but the UMC & Disaster Recovery are still here”

This is the second in a series of articles as part of the Bishop’s Appeal for Disaster Recovery for ongoing work needed for survivors of the June 2016 West Virginia flooding. Visit to learn more about how you can participate in our continuing efforts.

By Shari Dawn Stilgenbauer, Pastor
Emmanuel UMC
White Sulphur Springs, WV

Right after the flood of 2016, The United Methodist Church’s disaster response plan was ready to go. Our community, White Sulphur Springs, was one of the hardest hit areas. We lost seven people that day, not to mention the countless property losses…and how it all played on the psyches of those who survived.

The first to respond to the mounting needs for safe shelter was the United Methodist Church…in our immediate community we housed more than 20 survivors that first night, as well as a few cats and dogs. Those folks stayed with us until other safe arrangements were made. Our Disaster Response Spiritual Care Teams came in and offered the presence of peace and hope to our community. To many, their presence was enough to help them keep moving forward.

Within the first day, flood buckets and tools were delivered, enabling survivors to begin to see a new start. Those days were not easy on anyone. Emmanuel UMC in downtown White Sulphur Springs quickly became a ‘depot’ or hub for people to find supplies for muck-out. We also offered an ear to hear the stories of tragedy, loss and despair.

Others came and went, but the UMC & Disaster Recovery are still here. The UMC has been and continues to work with area Long Term Recovery Groups to assist those who have not yet recovered. Homes are still in need of repair or replacement from the 2016 flood.

Almost three years later, UMC Disaster Recovery and Volunteers in Mission (VIM) are still in need of volunteers, money, and prayers while we are still working with those who are displaced—even homeless—because of the horrific flood.

VIM has organized teams and hundreds of people that have come into our state to help us recover. Teams have been placed in White Sulphur Springs, Clendenin, Richwood, Rainelle, Rupert, and many other areas to help others recover from the loss and devastation. Teams are still being placed in many locations.

This has been a long process for the communities hit by the flood. In some communities you can see the recovery easily. Others still look very rough. But you can be certain that the UMC teams are still here and still working. They didn’t even take the winter off!

“We’re still here for you, responding with love for as long as it takes,” is not just a catchy phrase. It is what we have said from the beginning. We aren’t quitting until the work is done.

There’s still more to do. And we made a promise.

You can help by giving to the Bishop’s Appeal for Disaster Recovery. Your generous donations will allow us to continue to work in partnership with UMCOR to help families still recovering. Visit to give and see stories of what you’ve helped us do so far and what we can still do together.