United Methodist Committee on Relief

Oklahomans Grateful Even in Disaster

Kevin Walker, First UMC’s disaster relief center director, stays encouraged and grateful amidst challenging Oklahoma tornado recovery.
Communities are still clearing debris from the May tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Kevin Walker

By Susan Kim*

June 26, 2013—Kevin Walker is only 26 years old but he has been through more disasters than many people his age. A native Oklahoman, he recalls the 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal building and the 1999 tornadoes, as well as this year's deadly round of spring tornadoes and floods.

His love for his community and its resilience has only grown. Now director of the disaster relief center at the First United Methodist Church of Moore, Walker said he reminds himself on the job and in his personal life that every day is a new day.

“You know we all have different challenges thrown at us,” he said, “and we want to send our gratitude and thanks to all the people who've helped.”

How can people continue to help? Cash donations are the best way to help Oklahomans recover, said Walker. “We really are moving ahead pretty quickly here,” he indicated, adding that long-term recovery can begin sooner now that 56,000 tons of debris have been removed from the Moore area alone. Building supplies will soon be needed as people formulate their long-term recovery plans.

“Cleaning buckets were flying out of here,” he said, “and we're grateful for a continued stockpile of those.”

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is a key part of a thriving group of faith-based and voluntary agencies that belong to the Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). Richard Norman, disaster response coordinator for the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference, is also chairperson for Oklahoma VOAD.

Like Walker, Norman is grateful for the compassion people far and wide have shown for Oklahoma. He urged them to continue to remember the damaged communities in the months and years to come.

“We're basically moving from relief into long-term recovery quickly,” he said. “In this event, so many different tornadoes and so much flooding was involved that it all added to the geographic enormity of this disaster. We are having to put together a larger recovery structure and a more collaborative one.”

While Oklahoma is no stranger to disasters, the scale of this year's tornadoes and flooding is unprecedented, he added. At least 10,000 people were impacted by the first massive tornado in May 2013 alone. That was followed by additional tornadoes and flooding damage that ripped through even more communities.

Long-term recovery groups have come a long way since 1999, said Norman. “I know people try to compare this latest set of storms to the 1999 tornado, but the recovery will be different,” he said. “We have so many more groups from a variety of denominations. It's great to see that.”

Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, supports UMCOR’s work with Oklahomans and other US communities dealing with disaster over the months and years to come.

Please note that both church and government sources in Oklahoma stress that in-kind donations, such as clothing and other goods, are not needed in response to this disaster. Your monetary gift will effectively support long-term recovery there.

Relief-supply kits are always in demand, including layette kits, sewing kits, and bedding kits, as well as cleaning buckets and hygiene kits. These can be assembled and shipped to any of the depots in the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network and will be sent where they are needed most.

*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to

Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, supports UMCOR’s work with Oklahomans and other US communities dealing with disaster over the months and years to come.