(Left to right) UMCOR West Depot’s Maika Tukuafu, material resources manager, and the Rev. Brian Diggs, director, load a second truck full of relief supplies to assist survivors of the massive flooding in Colorado. Photo courtesy of UMCOR West Depot.
By Linda Unger*
September 18, 2013—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is supporting local church relief and recovery efforts in Colorado after severe flooding there impacted an area the size of the state of Connecticut—and growing—since late last week.
Greg Forrester, UMCOR executive in charge of US Disaster Response, underscored how critical it has been for those relief efforts that the United Methodist Rocky Mountain Annual Conference already had a well-thought-out disaster-response plan.
“It is the local church that takes the lead in our response to a disaster,” he said. “The Rocky Mountain Conference had a plan in place prior to this emergency. They activated that plan; they have trained and experienced people leading it; and they are well connected to their state VOAD,” or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
UMCOR is supporting those efforts with the shipment of 900 cleaning buckets and 2,000 health kits to Colorado. The relief supplies arrived yesterday and are being distributed to survivors at relief stations set up by the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
The supplies were shipped from UMCOR West, one of eight United Methodist depots across the United States that are part of the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network. Kits are assembled by scores of volunteers who give their time at the depots and in their churches throughout the year.
“It’s our connectional system at its best when we care for people in need who may not be right in our own backyard,” said the Rev. Denise Honeycutt, the head of UMCOR. “Many congregations already do this whenever they come together to assemble cleaning buckets, health kits, and other relief supplies. They were already involved with the people in Colorado before the flooding there even began.”
Floodwaters began to wreak havoc in Colorado at the end of last week, impacting residents in 17 counties. So far, the disaster has claimed the lives of eight people, and some 600 people are still missing.
UMCOR sent an emergency grant to Rocky Mountain Conference Bishop Elaine Stanovsky to facilitate the local church’s relief and recovery efforts. Stanovsky cancelled all her previous engagements and is making trips to the affected communities and congregations.
Forrester also instructed Gordon Knuckey, a consultant with UMCOR’s US Disaster Response team who lives in Colorado, to offer direct assistance to the conference and to assess additional ways UMCOR will be able to help on the long road to recovery following the disaster.
“Flooding continues on the eastern Plains, along the South Platte basin,” Knuckey reported late last night. “It is estimated that 19,000 homes have been damaged and 1,500 homes destroyed,” figures that are likely to rise once still-inaccessible areas can be surveyed, he said.
“Ten towns remain isolated. Weld County, our largest, has several large oil and gas fields flooded, and these are sending pollution downriver,” Knuckey added.
“Individual churches have reacted well to the disaster,” Forrester reported. “Many of them opened their doors to people displaced by the flooding. They were the church, and they will continue to be the church as relief and recovery go forward.”
Many United Methodist church properties were damaged by the flooding. They will need help getting rebuilt so that they can, in turn, assist their communities. Forrester indicated that UMCOR will support the Rocky Mountain Conference in their long-term recovery plans. “It is vital to UMCOR’s mission to help the church and affected communities recover,” he said.
For now, volunteers are being asked to not self-deploy from outside the state in response to this emergency. Colorado VOAD indicated that regional volunteers are providing hospitality to families displaced by the disaster and that conditions are not yet ready for additional volunteers to come.
But there are other ways you can help right now.
What You Can Do
Make a cash donation to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670. This is the most effective and immediate way you can support relief and recovery efforts following a disaster. One hundred percent of your gift will support survivors of the Colorado floods and ensure UMCOR is prepared to respond whenever and wherever emergencies strike in the United States.
Make a cash donation to Material Resource Ministry, UMCOR Advance #901440. This will help replenish UMCOR relief supplies and enable UMCOR to ship cleaning buckets, health kits, and other supplies to people in need. It is another great way you can bring relief and comfort to families reeling from a devastating emergency.
Assemble cleaning buckets and other relief kits. An emergency such as the flooding in Colorado underscores how vital these supplies are to people caught in a crisis. UMCOR stocks of these supplies are low. Please visit our Relief Supplies web page to learn how to assemble and ship kits to any of the depots in the Relief-Supply Network.
Please do not self-deploy to volunteer your services in the course of an emergency such as this one or immediately following it. Volunteers will be needed over the long road to recovery. Contact your United Methodist Volunteers in Mission jurisdictional coordinator for more information.
UMCOR supplies disaster-response training at every level of the church, from congregations to jurisdictions. Get trained, and make sure your local church is ready to respond should disaster strike. In Colorado, the church’s readiness is making a crucial difference to survivors.
Please continue to be present to survivors in Colorado through the gift of your prayers. “We follow Jesus by caring for each other and the world through our prayers, gifts, and presence,” Honeycutt said.
Through your generosity, Colorado flood survivors will build a sense of hope. Please give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670.
*Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.