United Methodist Committee on Relief

After Flood, Colorado Towns See Harsh Reality

A resident of Lyons, Colorado, looks through flood-damaged items from his home. A resident of Lyons, Colorado, looks through flood-damaged items from his home.

By Susan Kim*

January 21, 2014—Twenty-percent of the people in the town of Lyons, Colorado, simply can't go home.

When severe September flooding hit, the town lost two of its three mobile home parks, leaving little affordable housing. More than 200 homes were destroyed or so severely damaged they are uninhabitable.

Many of these flood survivors are self-employed artists and musicians, said the Rev. Emily Flemming, pastor at the Lyons Community Church, a United Methodist Church located on Main Street in the town.

“This has been a rough time for them,” she said. “You're trying to heal but you can't go home and you're not able to create.”

People in Colorado have different ways of handling the emotions related to disaster recovery, agreed the Rev. Donna Patterson, pastor at the UMC of Estes Park, another Colorado town. “I wish people had patience and understanding of the complexity of recovery in all areas—tangibly and emotionally,” she said. 

Both Patterson and Flemming have been helping connect flood survivors to resources they need. Patterson helped lead an effort by churches to deliver more than 400 cleanup buckets to disaster survivors in a shelter shortly after the flood struck.

Both pastors also had initial disaster response and preparedness training—offered by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)—when communities in Colorado faced a wildfire disaster last year. Patterson said that past experience has helped them face the current disaster. “I have been part of long-term relief in another community affected by fire so have some knowledge of the process that happens,” she indicated.

UMCOR has supported the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference with emergency and long-term recovery grants, and asked consultant Gordon Knuckey to provide training to volunteer case managers in Colorado. He has so far conducted three training workshops.

“Training like this leads to the development of an equipped local leadership team prepared to guide recovery processes,” said Greg Forrester, UMCOR’s assistant general secretary for US Disaster Response.

UMCOR also partnered with Church World Service in CWS’ Recovery Tools and Training program. Cathy Earl, an UMCOR US Disaster Response executive, provided a case management overview during that training.  

Susanne Gilmore, a CWS emergency response specialist, said UMCOR has an important role at the ecumenical disaster response table because of its well-regarded case management expertise.

“I was thrilled that Cathy could make it because nobody can talk about disaster case management the way Cathy can,” said Gilmore. “She is a great presenter and really keeps the audience engaged and focused.”

For communities like Lyons, Estes Park, and Greeley, the training is more than just a program: it equips people who will help bring hope back into flood-damaged neighborhoods, said the Rev. Gary Haddock, disaster response coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.

“Things are moving along and we are excited,” he said. 

Help flood survivors in Colorado begin their long-term recovery this winter. Please give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670.

*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to

Help flood survivors in Colorado begin their long-term recovery this winter. Please give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670.