BWC set to provide relief following Sandy
BY SHAUN A. LANE
As Hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc on millions of people in the mid-Atlantic and northeast, The United Methodist Church was gearing up to prepare, respond and cope with the storm's effects. Through local United Methodist churches and trained disaster response workers, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is providing relief, assistance with cleanup and rebuilding, pastoral counseling and support for people who have been affected by the massive storm.
"As large as the monster Sandy was, the church is larger and more powerful in its preparations, its spirit and its capacity to be here for years to come," said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for U.S. Disaster Response, in a released statement. UMCOR field staff is already at work assessing damages in the Caribbean, where Hurricane Sandy is known to have killed at least 65 people, left widespread power outages and damaged or destroyed agricultural fields and communications systems. In the U.S., United Methodist early response teams from many states have been put on alert, and will deploy once emergency officials say it is safe do so.
Ferndale UMC opened its doors to house and feed about 20 homeless people whose makeshift tent homes had been washed away.
The Rev. Michael Cantley slept in the church with them. Before becoming a minister, Cantley spent 18 years as a firefighter and emergency medical technician, the Maryland Gazette reported.
He said helping others and providing guidance always has been his calling. “We’re a small group here, about 188 members, but we do our best to reach out where there is a need,” he said.
The local churches of the Baltimore-Washington Conference were largely spared from any significant damage. There were, however, some churches that felt the negative effects of the storm:
- St. Mark’s UMC in Laurel suffered extensive damage to its basement. Ground water is also seeping in and was nearly a foot high. The church is bracing for more bad news as mold potentially sets in. There is also some wall damage in the sanctuary and ceiling tiles that need to be replaced.
- Pine Grove UMC in Parkton suffered a collapse of its ceiling in the back of the church. It also has water in its lower basement furnace and storage room, and there are significant amounts of water in the bell tower.
- Although western Maryland endured up to two feet of snow, Conrad Link, district superintendant for the Cumberland-Hagerstown District reported that his district escaped much of the snow damage, although he said a river overflow is a possibility in the next few days. He said although it snowed in Frostburg and Mt. Savage, it appears to be manageable. The worse of the snow, he added, was one county over in the West Virginia Conference.
- There were some churches that responded to the needs of the community during and after the storm. Ferndale UMC in Glen Burnie, for example, provided shelter for people and families that were displaced because of the storm.
Briton Weber, the Baltimore-Washington Conference disaster response coordinator, said he has reached out to neighboring conferences in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to see if they need assistance. The BWC has 300 trained emergency response people.
“We’re in standby mode until a conference lets us know that we’re needed,” Weber said. “If we’re called on we’ll be ready. Each conference has a disaster response team, so if any conference or area needs help, a team from within our connection can usually respond.”
To give to UMCOR, go to http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Give. You can call 1-800-554-8583 or mail checks (payable to UMCOR) to P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY, 10087. You can also use offering envelopes to designate funds for UMCOR and put them in theoffering plate at any United Methodist Church. Additionally, you can also text the word RESPONSE to 80888 to give an immediate $10 donation.UMCOR is a registered 501(c) (3) charity. All gifts go to the people in need and are tax deductible.
"United Methodists are just one spoke in the wheel that will move recovery from this storm forward," said Sandy Ferguson, conference director of connectional ministries. "But our contributions are essential ones, bringing practical assistance and spiritual care to people and communities seeking to put their lives back together."
A session of Early Disaster Response training is scheduled for Dec. 1, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Calvary UMC in Mount Airy. The cost is $25, payable at the event. For more information, contact Becky Hein.
The conference will be offering an opportunity for Volunteers in Mission training March 2 at the Mission Center in Fulton.