Disaster Response: Latest News

Updated Feb. 9, 2018

Disaster Response News Update

Myriam Rodriguez (right) receives a hot lunch and some groceries from volunteer Yaniré Torres with the mobile food pantry ministry of Betel Methodist Church in Hatillo, Puerto Rico. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS, Nov. 27, 2017.

How can we in New England help? 

Learn more about how to help by reading Top four worst, and best, ways to help after a disaster

ERT and VIM Teams needed for hurricane response

Find teams seeking volunteers

Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands (U.S. Territories)

The Methodist Church in Puerto Rico has developed a good plan, according to an UMCOR advance team (click the link to learn more) back from meeting with Bishop Ortiz of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.  A few specialized Early Response Teams (only those with up-to-date badges, necessary skills and abilities and those meeting the strict requirements of these early teams) are being invited to register through the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, Barbara Burnside.  Those that follow will likely need additional, specifically modified training. Watch for updates.

Watch this short video from mid-December 2017 about The UMC's efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria:


UMCOR is working with Methodist Church of Puerto Rico on hurricane recovery

We know that United Methodists here in New England have been eager to hear about how the Church is helping the people of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.  Read the latest update

In St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, there is no electricity and communication is almost non-existent, so response is slow.  UMCOR doesn’t know specifically what they need yet, but reports getting requests for school kits, so there are signs of hope.

California Wildfires
Fires in the Sonoma-Napa areas are 70-90 percent contained, but not all evacuation orders have been lifted. The conference there is waiting until all fires are contained to assess damage, but their bishop and disaster response coordinator (DRC) have visited all affected areas. Long-term recovery groups are still forming and spiritual care will be a strong need. The DRC reports that since so little is left in most areas, local governments will be clearing debris. Some of the UMCOR grant will be used for transitional housing.
The Florida Annual Conference reports that they have over 2.5 million FEMA registrations, and registration is open until Nov. 9, 2017; FEMA says its systems are strained, so recovery infrastructure is very fragile. They have 15,000 in temporary housing now and 289,000 who qualify. The Conference is focusing on underserved rural areas, and reports that a particularly vulnerable population is migrant workers.
Teams are needed right away in Naples, Marco Island, the Florida Keys, Tampa Bay/Clearwater/St. Pete, Daytona & St. Augustine areas. All volunteers will be accepted, regardless of ERT training (untrained volunteers may be asked to handle donations management, take calls or do other office work). Individuals and teams are encouraged to register and should expect to be deployed in the southern part of the state.

Jan. 5, 2018 - The Florida Conference shares this story about New England volunteers helping with the recovery efforts from three recent hurricanes. Read more

The Texas Annual Conference (Houston and north Gulf Coast) is still finding communities where the damage has not been assessed. Volunteers should be over age 18, Safe Sanctuaries certified, and at least one member of the team should be ERT trained.
Rio Texas
The Rio Texas Conference (Rockport & south Gulf Coast area) are taking ERTs. There are two different registration links, so make sure you use the right one! The conference has hired a recovery director, is working on hiring construction coordinators and case managers, and will begin to accept reservations for long-term recovery teams. They are setting up two permanent volunteer villages. They are looking for individuals who would be willing to volunteer for longer periods of time with site management and volunteer coordination.  Contact Eugene Hileman (aehileman@riotexas.org), if you can help with this ministry.

The Louisiana Conference is mostly finished with muck-outs from Hurricane Harvey and is still working with 17 long-term recovery groups on the 2016 flood damage, but with no federal disaster declaration, they are particularly dependent on volunteers and donations.

It is not always easy to wait, but it takes time to put the right processes in place so that we can meet needs in ways that truly help. Please pray that we will be shown how to be part of God’s provision, in God’s time.


Teams must have a Team Leader with experience in Haiti; it is highly recommended that at least 50 percent of each team have Haiti experience as well. This is based on assessments EgliseMéthodiste d’Haiti (EMH) has been doing with help from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

Ongoing Disaster Relief efforts in the Northeast Jurisdiction of the UMC and beyond


UMCOR relief supplies 

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018 UMCOR depots will accept ONLY hygiene (health), school, and cleaning kits. If you have any of the other kits you have prepared, please make sure you notify Barbara Burnside for instructions, as they need to reach Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana by Dec. 31, 2017.

Kits can sent directly to Sager Brown or delivered to a conference drop-off location or to any UMCOR affiliate warehouse near you. Click the link to find information about UMCOR depot affiliate locations.

Pause on collection of new relief supplies
Amy Fuselier, Director of the Relief Supply Network for UMCOR, shared that she was overwhelmed by the response from local churches to the call for relief supplies this Fall. Thanks to your generosity, Texas and Florida have been fully supplied with cleaning buckets and hygiene kits. As of Oct. 10, 2017, there were 28,000 cleaning kits in the warehouse awaiting delivery to Puerto Rico when that becomes possible. For the time being, do not begin any NEW collections of cleaning (or flood) buckets. Once more kits have been delivered, there will be space in UMCOR’s Louisiana warehouse to hold more and we will notify churches to begin assembling the buckets again, as the 28,000 cleaning buckets earmarked for Puerto Rico may not end up being enough once UMCOR gets those into Puerto Rico and begins distribution.

Note: Current buckets being built should proceed, as our New England HUBs will need re-stocking.

Disaster Relief/Volunteer Opportunities

Camp Aldersgate needs volunteers for roofing project: Volunteers are needed to replace the asphalt-shingled roof of the dining hall at Camp Aldersgate in North Scituate, RI. The work needs to be done before the end of May 2018. Roofing materials will be provided for the 6,000 square-foot roofing project – it is not a steep pitch. The camp will provide overnight accommodations and meals for the volunteers (donations to underwrite this are appreciated) and the camp has eight RV hook-ups. You don’t need to be a trained ERT or UMVIM team leader or member to volunteer – just comfortable on a roof or ground crew or experienced at putting on an asphalt -shingled roof. If interested, contact Barbara Burnside, Conference Disaster Response & Mission Coordinator, at
baburnside@neumc.org  or (978) 682-8055, ext. 135. Please include when you are available and your skill level.

Tri-State Mission trip April 5-15, 2018 to Hollywood, SC Rural Mission (www.ruralmission.org) is an ecumenical non-profit organization that serves people in need who live in the Sea Island area of Charleston County, near Charleston, S.C.  Hurricane Matthew added to people's need for help and did significant damage to the Rural Mission itself. The Tri-State District Rural Mission Team is inviting others to join a mission trip to help repair and perhaps build new housing in the South Carolina lowlands. There is a job for everyone, be it helping cook for the group, painting, banging nails, specialty stuff like plumbing, shopping, and most importantly, being a friend to those we meet. The cost is $375, which covers all transportation, motels going and coming, food, housing in a local United Methodist Church, and some building materials.  We do fundraising for most of the building supplies. For more information, please contact Marilyn Ives at kilyives@maine.rr.com

Mission trip April 15-28, 2018 to Washington, N.C. with Rev. Roy Richardson, Stafford Springs UMC, CT. This is the group’s third trip to North Carolina since Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016. This project is to build a new home – one of 100 planned to get people out of flood zones and on to dry land. Volunteers can come for the first week or the second or both. The cost is $200 for one week; $350 for both weeks, and covers: food, housing, and insurance. The group typically travels together with those in each vehicle splitting those costs. Those who choose to fly, must arrange their travel and pay for their own airfare. Interested? Contact Rev. Roy at (401) 378-8776 or revrichardson@juno.com for information and registration materials.

Upcoming Trainings

The latest training available can be found on the Upcoming Training Opportunities page of this website.

The New England Conference is blessed to have many trained ERTs, but we have a significant number who need recertification.  In preparation for an invitation from the new disaster areas, we invite you to contact Barbara Burnside to schedule a recertification training and our conference will:

  • Receive inquiries from ERT- trained persons willing to lead teams if requested. Interested and qualified persons may contact Barbara Burnside at baburnside@neumc.org
  • Set up several training events for ERT certification or re-certification.

May God bless you to be a blessing in this time of need and every day!

From Barbara Burnside, New England Conference Disaster Response & Mission Coordinator:

We are in prayer, responding and training to help respond to those in need as they recover from the recent hurricanes.

UMCOR makes sure that conferences account for exactly how the money is spent and that everyone who receives help has been vetted by a case manager, ensuring that only those who truly have unmet needs receive the limited and precious resources. UMCOR also monitors how much can be spent on staff to manage the relief and recovery efforts.