(Amelia Fletcher, AWF Disaster Response Coordinator) - A mantra of disaster work is that “ All disasters are LOCAL.” In that vein, UMCOR’s funding is unique to each disaster and it depends on the assessment and willingness of the grassroots communities to manage their own disaster. The contributions sent to UMCOR advances are dedicated 100% to the cause of that advance. No overhead is ever taken out of those funds.
Once a year the church is asked to support the office staff and physical operations of UMCOR. One Great Hour of Sharing is the only request that asks for congregations to dedicate their funding to “keeping the lights on” in the UMCOR office. Without that office and the continuity of operations, the response arm of the church would wither and die. As United Methodists responders, we certainly have carved our presence worldwide and our caring for humanity on our behalf should not be hindered by lack of funding for operations.
In just the past decade, the Alabama-West Florida Conference has been the beneficiary of the strong support of UMCOR and their disaster relief staff and funds. From the Ivan and Katrina hurricanes to the current Gulf Oil Spill and Super Outbreak Tornadoes of April 2011, the aid from UMCOR has been offered in an immediate and reliable way, and with expertise.
In 2010-11, UMCOR funding supported the recovery of the Gulf Oil Spill. In disaster world terms, this was not a Katrina. However, the economic and emotional impact on the communities was perhaps just as deep. As volunteers, it gives us a sense of satisfaction to be able to tarp a roof or rebuild a house, but the intangible damage from a man-made catastrophe put responders at a loss for knowing how to help. UMCOR provided the guidance and insight for initiating the Alabama-West Florida response. The conference grant helped to supply resources for a variety of recovery projects: a food panty, two children’s recovery camps, family support programs, workshops for community staffs to work within the economically and emotionally depressed area and resources for people with a sudden loss of income to meet the individual needs of their family. Thousands of individuals along the Gulf Coast have been helped thanks to the UMCOR grant.
Charles Walters, Disaster Coordinator for Tornado Recovery in the AWF Conference, has been on the front lines of recovery in an area hit hard from the Spring 2011 storms. “UMCOR has been instrumental in the AWF UMC Conference in both disaster preparedness and disaster recovery. UMCOR has supplied our current disaster team in Livingston through training and support, bringing to our office both organization and professionalism. They have led training programs on spiritual care, case management and emergency response and also developed a program called connecting neighbors, which is a class that will help a church body be more informed of the sequence of events following a disaster and the steps that they can take as a community to prepare for it,” he said.
One Great Hour of Sharing is a vital offering that allows UMCOR to be at our front door when we need them most. Prayerfully consider giving to this worthy offering on March 18. To order your free One Great Hour of Sharing resources, click here.