Disaster Update: HURRICANE

by Phil Shea, Southwest Conference Disaster Ministries Coordinator

Please read the article below from our UCC Disaster ministries. I am aware of at least one SWC congregation that has responded by sending 51 Hygiene Kits (Black Mountain UCC) and another that has donated $300 dollars in hurricane support (Scottsdale Congregational UCC). If you or your congregation has responded in some way we would love to hear from you and acknowledge your assistance.

Clean-up Buckets and Kits: Organizing or funding kits is a great response to the immediate needs in these hard hit communities. If you wish to build and send kits please contact me and I can assist you with directing your kits to the appropriate depot and can help lower your shipping cost.

Work Teams: The heart of the UCC mission is “Long-term Recovery”. There are two critical needs in this respect. Work Teams and Case Managers. Volunteer terms can be 1-2 weeks or longer as you are able. Currently a Work Team is forming to go to the Virgin Islands. We expect the travel costs to be covered by FEMA institutional travel. The core group is meeting in Phoenix in the next two weeks to set a travel date and alternate date. If the FEMA institutional travel process does not work out we will look at a mission to Texas. If you are interested in participating in our mission to the Virgin Islands please contact me or the SWC Office as soon as possible. If you would like to send a work team to another location that is ready to receive you (Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico) please contact me. Work Team expectations and descriptions are available upon request or on the UCC Disaster Ministries website.

Case Managers: Case Managers help our recovery teams and partners interview and assess homes that require restoration. There is a need for Case Managers in Florida and other locations. If you would like to be trained and deployed as a Case Manager, please contact me or the SWC Office.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I am available to visit your congregation by phone, video conference or in person to discuss your participation in disaster ministries. If you have a disaster need in your community (wildfire, flood, etc.) please contact me regarding how the SWC UCC and local agencies can assist. We are an active member of Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) in New Mexico and Arizona. We can also connect to the VOAD in Texas for needs in the El Paso area.

Phil Shea

SWC Disaster Coordinator




UCC Disaster Ministries Poised to Assist After Hurricane Michael

October 12, 2018 
Written by Connie Larkman

As the people of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas begin the long process of recovery from Hurricane Michael, an extraordinarily powerful Category 4 storm which slammed into the Florida panhandle on Wednesday, UCC Disaster Ministries remains poised to assist.

"Right now, there are no reports of damage to any UCC churches at this time and we are continuing to keep in close contact with Florida Conference Disaster Coordinator Alan Coe," said Zach Wolgemuth, UCC Disaster Ministries executive. He noted that Coe is participating in Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) calls and keeping the national staff posted. "That said, many areas are not accessible, dangerous and without power. It will take days for initial assessments to be completed and intermediate needs to be identified.”

At least thirteen people in four states died after the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years ripped through Florida on October 10, crossed into South Georgia spawning tornadoes, and brought flash flooding to North Carolina, drenching areas still reeling from Hurricane Florence. Massive winds topping 150 miles an hour toppled trees, tore roofs off homes and businesses, and blew structures apart in the Panama City area. Power outages are still affecting hundreds of thousands of people across Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas.

"This most recent disaster will no doubt stretch our capacity and though it is at the forefront of the news cycle, we remain committed to the families and communities still displaced from disasters over a year ago even as we plan our long-term response to Michael." Wolgemuth said. "As is always the case, the best way to support survivors in this disaster is to give (financially), pray for first responders and survivors and plan to volunteer in long-term recovery."

"Within the span of one month we've witnessed a plethora of catastrophic disasters," he continued. "Two Indonesian earthquakes and a tsunami; a Haitian earthquake; Typhoon Mangkhut; Typhoon Titli; Hurricane Florenceand now Hurricane Michael.

"The images and stories coming from Hurricane Michael and these other disasters are heart-wrenching and remind us why long-term recovery is so important," Wolgemuth emphasized. "Disaster Ministries always stands ready to fill gaps and is supporting many of the early relief efforts to these disasters but we know that our presence is most needed in the months and years following any disaster. Sadly, research shows that 70% of all giving for disasters occurs within the first 2 months and only 5% is allocated to reconstruction and recovery. Recovery work is not flashy, it doesn't always make the news – but it's not about recognition. It is about being the church and responding to the greatest needs of the most vulnerable and in times like these when Christ calls us to extend the table.

"My prayer is that we will have sufficient volunteers and support to continue the critical recovery efforts from last year's disasters and the ability to extend the table of support to families and communities from these most recent events," Wolgemuth said. "Please join us on the journey of healing and recovery for all."

Get more information on volunteering and donate to the 2018 Hurricane Response here.