AWF Disaster Response to Hurricane Michael: A Glance One Week After the Storm

October 18, 2018
On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael raged ashore making landfall in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. The catastrophic damage is far-reaching and the recovery process will be a long-term effort that the United Methodist Church is committed to leading.
 
In the past week, we have seen thousands of disciples help storm survivors. The best way we can phrase the response situation is that every day there is a new need and every day there is a new person to help. Thank you to the thousands of people who have stepped up in significant ways in the past week. Here are a few ways the Alabama-West Florida has made an impact.
 
Prayer
-We have received a multitude of notes and words of expression from people around the world who are praying for us as we continue to best help those in need. Thank you! 
-Our AWF spiritual directors have prayed over every request received.
 
Site Visits
-Bishop David Graves and conference leadership have been in the Panama City area and will continue to visit damaged areas in the coming weeks.
-Rev. Rob Haynes has visited the Marianna-Panama City District to assess churches and overall damage. He has also set up some of our initial distribution sites. He continues to communicate with Florida VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters).
-Leaders from Woodlawn UMC have been able to visit many damaged areas to assess immediate needs and communicate that back to the conference. Since cell service has been limited, we have been dependent on them for this and are extremely grateful for their quick mobilization. 
- Ron Toole, Conference ERT Trainer, has visited many churches to assess damage and needs.
 
Monetary Donations
-We have received an initial $10k UMCOR grant and are in the process of applying for the next grant, which would be $100k. Every penny of these donations will go to help churches, pastors, staff and communities who were affected by Hurricane Michael.
-To date, the Alabama-West Florida Conference has collected close to $200,000 from in-conference collections and online giving.
-Several conferences throughout the connection have pledged their financial assistance. The Florida Conference made a direct appeal and FUMC Ormond Beach has pledged to match up to $500,000
-We have received a $5,000 grant from General Council on Finance and Administration.
- Kristi McClellan, conference grant writer, is in the process of submitting several grants on behalf of our conference that would go to helping specific ministry areas such as feeding programs and clergy compensation. Please contact her if you are aware of specific funding that is available.
-She also secured a corporate donation from Good 360 of a semi filled with personal care items that will be delivered in the coming days. 
 
UMCOR Kits and Supplies
-Mike Norris mobilized two 53’ semi trucks from UMCOR filled with tornado kits, hygiene kits and flood kits for the Port St. Joe area. Also included are 6,000 school kits that will be distributed in the Marianna-Panama City area.
-A 27’ trailer with similar items was deployed from Decatur, AL, to the Marianna, FL, area. Buckets have also been moved from Dothan, AL to Marianna.
-Heavy duty tarps have been ordered and are necessary to properly cover damaged roofs.
-UMCOR will continue to be a key partner in this relief effort.
 
Distribution Sites
-Good News UMC and Woodlawn UMC have both served as central command centers for supply collection and distribution. Both have been on the ground immediately after the storm passed. These sites have received supplies, broken down larger shipments, found their own volunteers and have established the first operational structures for response. When possible, operations will be moved closer into the damaged areas.
-Many local churches have delivered thousands of supplies requested to collection sites located throughout our conference or have directly delivered them to affected areas. This effort will continue until the need is significantly reduced.
-The conference has also communicated specific requests of certain areas, such as Port St. Joe, to ensure the correct supplies and delivered and appropriate needs are met.
-The AWF mobile response trailer has been deployed to Woodlawn UMC.
-A 1,400 square-foot plane hanger has been secured to store donations.
 
ERT Teams and Training
-Since the day after the storm, trained ERT teams have been registering through our online portal. The first call for those in-conference teams came on October 17, as well as untrained volunteers who could distribute supplies and serve food.
-More ERT trainings are scheduled so that we can train as many people as we can since this will be a long-term effort.
-Assessment training is ongoing so that we have as many people as we can in the damaged areas assessing needs.
-Right now teams and volunteers must be self-contained but efforts are being made to find housing options in neighboring districts.
 
Clergy Care
-In the coming days, each pastor who was affected in some way will be assigned a pastoral friend who will walk alongside them to frequently check in on them, pray with them and help them to continue to assess needs.
-The conference is working on identifying the best group of clergy leaders to partner with clergy in the Marianna-Panama City District.
-The Bishop’s Response Team will be activated in the coming days. This group of caring individuals respond and assist a congregation experiencing a crisis or trauma so that healing can begin. 
-We have begun registering Stephen Ministry teams from around our conference. Stephen Ministers can equip congregation members to provide one-to-one Christian care to people who are hurting.
 
Insurance and Assessment
-Shelly Slate, Marianna-Panama City District Administrative Assistant, has attempted to make contact with each church and pastor in the district. She continues to update conference leadership on information she acquires. A listing of churches and their status can be found here
-Suzanne Krejcar, AWF Treasurer, has spoken to many pastors and is actively advising them on insurance claims.
-The Alabama-West Florida Conference is committed to helping damaged churches with lost contributions that would normally provide for clergy and staff salaries.
-Efforts are being made to find housing options for displaced clergy and staff.

Communications
-The day after the storm, www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org went live so that people wanting to help had a specific Web address to visit. 
-On that site are clickable links for prayer, donations, information on UMCOR kits and registering an ERT team. 
-Frequent updates are being sent with rapidly changing needs along the panhandle of Florida. Those will continue to be sent for the foreseeable future. 
-A photo album of the Bishop's site visit can be found here
-Frequent social media posts are made to provide relevant information and other media stories we have found about our pastors and churches. 
-A clickable district map is being created so that all of the up-to-date need information can be found in one place. 
 
As we receive information on needs that have changed, we will send an email to those subscribed. To subscribe, click here. We ask for your continued prayers in the days, weeks, months and years to come.