Volunteers in Louisiana ready UMCOR cleaning buckets for distribution. Photo: Louisiana Annual Conference.
By Linda Unger*
Days of torrential rain inundated the state of Louisiana, beginning August 11. Flooding has impacted at least 40,000 homes, and about 30,000 people and 1,000 pets have been rescued from high water in homes and cars. At least 11 people are known to have died in the disaster.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) issued an emergency grant to the Louisiana Annual Conference, releasing 2,950 cleanup buckets to United Methodist churches in LaFayette and Baton Rouge, areas severely affected by the floods, for distribution to affected households.
UMCOR stands ready to release another 2,000 cleanup buckets to go to the most vulnerable places as identified by the Louisiana Conference, as more cleanup buckets are being assembled to meet more needs.
The state of Mississippi also was affected by flooding, and UMCOR has readied relief supplies to go there, when the water recedes.
From ‘massive’ to ‘catastrophic’ flooding
Greg Forrester, UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response executive, called the disaster “catastrophic,” and recalled that it follows on the heels of “massive” spring floods in Louisiana. He said UMCOR had just approved a long-term disaster-response grant to aid the Louisiana Conference in its response, when floodwaters again impacted the state, affecting some of the same areas as the previous event.
Several United Methodist churches have been converted to shelters for those who have been displaced. Four Louisiana parishes — East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa — received a Federal disaster declaration, so FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was mobilized. Some 50,000 families already have registered with FEMA for assistance, and many more are expected to do so.
UMCOR is collaborating with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD).
“The Red Cross national office reached out to us, and we have connected them with the Louisiana Annual Conference leadership, as well as with UMCOR Sager Brown for warehouse space, cleanup buckets, distribution assistance, and shelter for evacuees,” Forrester stated.
The best ways to help
Forrester urged all people of goodwill who want to help in Louisiana and Mississippi, “Do not self-deploy. You mean to help, but at this stage your presence could unintentionally become an obstacle,” he said. He also urged people not to send unsolicited aid, such as clothing.
“The best ways to help are to assemble and send cleanup buckets and to support the UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response Advance, #901670, with your donations,” he stated. “This will allow us to assist the most vulnerable communities in need because of this and other disasters.”
Forrester reminded readers that, in mid-August, the U.S. is approaching the height of the Atlantic hurricane season, and he said the current supply of cleanup buckets will be exhausted by this event. “We need your prayers and cleanup buckets, cleanup buckets, cleanup buckets!” he said.
Your gift to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670 will help UMCOR respond to this and other disasters across the United States.
*Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.