Disaster Response: Latest News

Updated Sept. 17, 2018

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

Get news and information about the Sept. 13, 2018 gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence’s damage will be assessed when the flooding recedes, but there are ongoing recovery efforts from Matthew and previous storms.  To learn more or register to volunteer, go to the South Carolina website.  http://www.umcsc.org/home/more-volunteers-needed-for-s-c-flood-recovery/

ERT and VIM Teams needed for disaster response

Find teams seeking volunteers

During a disaster, things move slower than anyone would like; sometimes for good reasons, sometimes because of unforeseen complications or bureaucracies inexperienced in disaster response. 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.

So please pray for the affected areas below and that we will be shown how to be part of God’s provision, in God’s time.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico update:  Long-term recovery teams are now welcome in Puerto Rico, especially those with strong construction skills and familiarity with building codes (See story about volunteering).  But please be sure that you follow the process that has been established by with UMCOR by the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) and Bishop Hector Ortiz for any teams deploying to serve in Puerto Rico.  Self-deploying teams, even those working directly with local churches, can strain the system of available resources.  Volunteer teams interested in supporting Puerto Rico’s homeowners should register through the UMCOR portal, which has posted updated guidelines for serving in the long-term recovery phase Volunteer Guidelines

WEST VIRGINIA: The end of June 2016 saw 8 to 10 inches of rain fall in a 12-hour period in West Virginia with a resulting flash flood that caused 23 deaths and destroyed 5,000 homes. Individual disaster assistance grants for affected homeowners, renters and businesses were approved from FEMA for residents of 12 counties. The United Methodist Church is still helping rebuild homes and lives.  Each team/individual is asked to fill out the attached form and send back to the Disaster Response Team. After your form is received you will be contacted and scheduled for a time and location of service.  Forms should be submitted to: Rev. Dave Stilgenbauer at revdaves@yahoo.com Questions? Email him or call (304) 210-6938.

EASTERN PA: The Schuylkill County area of Pennsylvania experienced its second bout of flooding in a month. Pennsylvania VOAD is organizing crisis clean-up on 250 homes in the Eastern PA Conference. Eastern PA Disaster Response Coordinator Bob Simcox says that the United Methodist response is focused on 20 homes in the area around Tremont, Pine Grove, and Port Carbon. The Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) shower trailer is being moved into position there to serve teams. Bob is requesting both early response (ERT) and long-term recovery teams from around the Northeastern Jurisdiction to help with the response beginning immediately. St. John UMC in Tremont, PA will be the host site and is allowing use of its kitchen for incoming teams. Those who can help should contact the Onsite Coordinator Suzanne Schach at jsb@epix.net or (570) 294-3748. Teams should also notify their own Conference Disaster Response Coordinators and/or Early Response Team Coordinators if they plan to mobilize. Further questions can be directed to Bob Simcox at drc@epaumc.org (610) 427-0470.  


The Florida Annual Conference reports that they have over 2.5 million FEMA registrations, and the Conference is focusing on underserved rural areas, and reports that a particularly vulnerable population is migrant workers.  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.  John Chickering took a group of volunteers to the Keys in January when Florida was just starting to accept teams in that area.


The Texas Annual Conference (Houston and north Gulf Coast) asks that volunteers should be over age 18, Safe Sanctuaries certified, and at least one member of the team should be ERT trained.
Rio Texas
June 20-21, 2018 torrential rain hit the Rio Grande Valley in the Rio Texas Conference. Over 7,000 homes were affected by the flood. Teams from any conference are welcome, and should register at https://riotexasresponse.org/volunteer-for-ert/ 

Teams will be contacted to make further arrangements. We anticipate needing ERT teams for at least one or two months. The areas affected were primarily in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties, especially the towns of Mercedes and Weslaco. Several churches in the area have accommodations suitable for housing teams, including showers and kitchens. Restaurants are open throughout the area.  Inquiries can be directed to Disaster Response Coordinator Gene Hileman aehileman@riotexas.org or to Jim Street at jim@jimstreet.com


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.

California Wildfires

Both California/Nevada (Cal/Nev) and California/Pacific (Cal/Pac) Conferences have moved into the Long-Term Recovery phases from the 2017 Wild Fire and Mud Slide Disasters.  Assessments are still taking place from the latest fires.  Cal/Pac disaster responders are working with various disasters, including fire (e.g.- Lilac fire near San Diego), flooding, and volcanos in Hawaii, while those in Cal/Nev are dealing with the Carr (Shasta, Mariposa, Riverside Counties), Mendicino (Lake, Mendocino, Napa Counties), Ferguson (Mariposa & Yosemite areas), Cranston (Shasta, Mariposa, Riverside Counties), Holy (San Diego, Riverside , Orange Counties), Klamathon (Siskiyou County) & Pawnee (Lake County – the fifth fire in 4 years) Fires. 

  • In Cal/Nev, contact the new Disaster Response Coordinator Sonja Edd-Bennett for more information about the rebuild.  
  • In Cal/Pac contact Judy and Doug Lewis for more information about volunteering.


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).

Find other volunteer opportunities

UMCOR relief supplies 

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018 UMCOR depots began only accepting hygiene (health), school, and cleaning kits.  The kit components were changed in June 2018 (Please check new lists before assembling new kits).  Kits can be 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.

Disaster Relief/Volunteer Opportunities

NORTH CAROLINA - Oct. 7-20, 2018: Mission returning to North Carolina to continue rebuilding homes affected by Hurricane Matthew in Fall of 2016. Complete the following forms: Information form and insurance application Submit completed forms to Pastor Roy Richardson, First UMC, Stafford Springs, CT at revrichardson@juno.com Questions? Email or call him at (401)378-8776.

HAITI - Nov. 30-Dec. 10, 2018: On Oct. 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew, the third strongest to ever hit Haiti, caused widespread destruction including the complete destruction of the Durocher Methodist Church which is west of Les Cayes, Haiti.  This VIM team is a construction team helping to rebuild the church.  No construction skills are required; skilled Haitians will be hired.  The team members will be gofers supporting the Haitian laborers; this is simple manual labor.  The cost is $3000/person which includes all expenses: round trip airfare, porters, tips, lodging, food, in country transportation, drivers, translators, insurance, donation for building materials, etc.  For more information, contact team leader, Bob Parker at (603) 863-7348 or parker.nh@gmail.com