United Methodist Committee on Relief

Changes to UMCOR relief supply kits empower communities

By Bella Simonetti*

ATLANTA, Georgia – In the wake of 2017’s epic hurricane season, members of The United Methodist Church gave their time and money to assemble relief supply kits. Because of the generous hearts of United Methodists, thousands of cleaning buckets were transported within the United States and Puerto Rico to reach devastated communities.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is well-known for its relief supply kits. Almost since its formation, UMCOR has shipped material resources to people in need all over the world. Now, UMCOR is seeing some major changes to its relief supply process. 

1_KY 2017 conference_Kathleen Barry.jpgHealth kits, now called hygiene kits, are assembled at the 2017 Kentucky Annual Conference for UMCOR. PHOTO: KATHLEEN BARRY

After prayerful reflection, UMCOR leadership recognized that shipping relief supplies abroad can do more harm than good. Though shipped with good intent, materials bought and packaged in the U.S. displace potential local or regional purchases that can support local economies. With this in mind, UMCOR determined to cease international shipment of relief supply kits. 

UMCOR now distributes only the most-requested relief supply kits assembled in the United States to places in the U.S. and its territories where these items are most needed. 

With this pivotal change, UMCOR can meet the needs of those who request relief supplies more efficiently. By awarding disaster response grants to UMCOR partners abroad, UMCOR can provide more support to local economies in need through awarded grants. This allows communities to use grant money to buy local supplies and use local workers, as they respond to disasters in their area.

“It’s more sustainable that way and will help to stimulate their economy,” said Amy Fuselier, director for UMCOR Sager Brown and Depot West. “It’s our way to provide them with a hand up instead of a hand down. In doing so, UMCOR empowers local people as they assist after a disaster.” 

2_US-MexicoBorderMinistry_Mike DuBose.jpgThe Revs. Saul Montiel (left) and John Fanestil hand out hygiene kits from UMCOR at “El Bordo,” along the Tijuana River in Tijuana, Mexico. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE

Being good stewards 

As director of UMCOR’s Relief Supplies Program, Fuselier helps to oversee changes to the relief supply kits. The relief supply kit lists change from time to time, and it’s important to keep up with significant changes to make purchases correctly. 

“The updated lists offer flexibility to the donor in purchasing supplies,” said Fuselier. “The new lists help us to better steward the donor’s dollar. The intended goal is to make the process a lot more donor-friendly. For any kits that have already been assembled according to the old list, we will continue to accept them as they are during the coming months.” UMCOR will distribute all kits consistent with its updated distribution policies, thus utilizing all kits within the U.S. and territories. 

3_SB volunteers_UMCOR SB.jpgVolunteers help assemble, package and load relief supply kits at UMCOR’s Sager Brown facility in Baldwin, Louisiana. PHOTO COURTESY UMCOR SAGER BROWN

*Bella Simonetti is a communications specialist for Global Ministries.