Disaster Response: Latest News

Updated July 1, 2020

COVID-19 Resources

From our Conference Disaster Response and Mission Coordinator Barbara Burnside


UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own. When disaster strikes, it is local churches that provide the first response to their communities. This basic understanding — that disaster response is local — forms the foundation for UMCOR’s U.S. disaster training and response.

When responding to a disaster in the United States, UMCOR provides training, financial assistance, expertise, community collaboration to churches and partners making them more resilient to disasters. Through UMCOR, United Methodists extend loving care to people within the United States.  UMCOR receives no mission share dollars.  Support UMCOR 

How can we in New England help? 

  • Prayers
  • Donate to UMCOR Disaster Response, U.S. Advance #901670
  • Organize a team to help in relief or recovery efforts
  • Register for one of the upcoming disaster response training sessions being offered here in New England
  • Create recovery materials
    • In June 2018, UMCOR announced changes to the contents required for its kits. All the kits have changes, so please read the new guidelines below before creating kits. 

Find a list of drop-off sites: https://www.neumc.org/umcorreliefsupplydropofflocations

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



A home in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, lies in ruins following a series of earthquakes. Hundreds of homes along the island’s southern coast were destroyed or severely damaged, leaving many people afraid to sleep indoors. Photo courtesy of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.

Volunteers may think that some of the disaster-response opportunities below are surely out-of-date, but recovery can take many years – long after news of the disaster fades from media reports.  If you have any questions, please contact Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, Barbara Burnside.

Puerto Rico

Cancellation of Puerto Rico mission trips

The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and Rebuilding Communities with Hope (REHACE) have decided to cancel all visits by mission trip teams beginning Saturday, March 14, through the end of April. Read their statement here

As UMCOR and United Methodist churches continue to respond to disasters around the world, we are saddened to see our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico devastated once again by the early January earthquakes. See a Jan 10, 2020 story from UM News  

The island’s conference disaster response coordinator (CDRC) updated other US CDRCs on a 2/17/20 call and said there are still a couple thousand families outside their homes, either in tents next to the home or in formal evac centers, because there are still some aftershocks happening.  UMCOR is doing assessments on the SW part of the island where the quakes happened, while continuing the recovery from Hurricane Maria on other parts of the island.  Complicating the assessments and delaying bringing response teams to that area is the fact that after every aftershock that registers above 5, assessors are required to go back and do another assessment.  The local UMCOR organization has opened 15 collection and distribution centers to help residents.  Anyone who wants to donate to this effort can do so on the UMCOR website to US Disaster Response (Advance #901670).

There is an active, UMCOR-funded UMC recovery still progressing for Hurricane Maria on other parts of the island not affected by the earthquakes with infrastructure, materials, supplies and recovery personnel already in place to assist survivors, but the Puerto Rican UMCOR leadership halted teams for about six weeks while aftershocks were more prevalent.  They have resumed accepting teams now. 

UMCOR approved a solidarity grant and an UMCOR Advance Support Team has returned from an assessment mission.  While assessments continue, the UMCOR team is in dialogue with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) concerning plans for the response, including conducting requested training in disaster spiritual & emotional care training for local responders. 

The best way to help is with your prayers and gifts to UMCOR Advance #901670.   UMCOR is providing updates on their Facebook page and we will continue to keep you informed as information is available.

To volunteer on Hurricane Maria recovery projects in Puerto Rico, contact Tymera Jackson (puertoricovols@umcor.org), but please be sure to follow the process that has been established with UMCOR by the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) and Bishop Hector Ortiz.  Volunteer teams should register through the UMCOR portal, which has posted updated guidelines for serving in the long-term recovery phase Volunteer Guidelines

Bahamas update

At this point the priority is repairing two church structures, one on Grand Bahama and one on Abaco, both severely damaged, which will serve as volunteer housing sites. Bahamians have been trained by UMCOR to respond until outside UMC volunteers can be hosted.

A formal volunteer response structure is being developed. Most likely, volunteer teams will not be deployed until early spring. The Puerto Rico Response volunteer mainland office is managed by the New York Conference Missions office and they are working closely with the Bahamas Methodist Habitat (BMH), which is collaborating with the Methodist churches in the Bahamas.  All early volunteers will need to be ERT-certified, in good physical condition, and willing to accept very basic living conditions. Special volunteer skills may also be asked of team members. All potential team leaders must be experienced.

Until we receive a formal call for volunteers, please contact NEUMC Disaster Response & Mission Coordinator Barbara Burnside for more information.

 To provide support for the Bahamas recovery effort,

  • make an online donation to UMCOR International Advance # 98245
  • or by mail, make your check payable to ADVANCE GCFA. Write the name of the ministry (UMCOR) and the Advance code number (982450) on the memo line of the check.  Then send your check to: Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068


Upper New York flooding

Image from Fulton County Area News


Upper New York Conference has been dealing with widespread flooding from the 2019 Halloween storms in the Utica area.  They ask teams to help repair homes and entered the rebuild phase in January 2020.  Contact Roger Cullen, UNY-VIM Co-Coordinator to schedule.  (585) 857-3140.

People in the area continue to ask for help.  According to New York State Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD):

  • An estimated 1,000 homes were impacted by the storm.

  • An estimated 300 homes have major damage.

  • An estimated 100 homes were destroyed or condemned.

The need is great, and more volunteers are needed to make a difference in the lives of those affected. Currently, housing is provided for volunteers at Griffiss Air Force Base where cots, showers and some food is provided. (Consider bringing ear plugs for airport noise).





In response to the severe and unrelenting wildfires in Australia, UMCOR - United Methodist Committee On Relief is

working with partner organizations to assess current damage and analyze the best route for support.

If you would like to support relief and recovery efforts to address the needs of people who have been affected by this disaster (as well as other disasters worldwide), please give to the International Disaster Response Advance #982450

Goods being donated at this point are only clogging up relief centers, which are struggling with other relief concerns: rescuing and housing people and rescuing and treating animals. This story from the BBC explains: Australia fires: How the world has responded to the crisis


Pacific Northwest to Midwest Flooding and Tornadoes

Please be in prayer for those in the Pacific Northwest from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest, particularly the Ohio River Valley and some points east, who lived through the unprecedented number of tornadoes between May 17 and May 28, 2019, and subsequent flooding. Click the links below to find info from that conference or, in some cases, the email address for the coordinator in that conference who will respond to inquiries:

Oklahoma, Alabama-West Florida, Tennessee, Memphis, Great Plains, Dakotas, Pacific Northwest, Mississippi and Arkansas

For those who are more interested in rebuild, there are many opportunities in West Virginia, Texas and Florida (see below).

Hurricane Michael

October 10, 2018 changed the lives of thousands as well as the landscape of the beautiful states of Florida and Georgia.  “We will never forget the fear of watching a category five hurricane descend on our conference,” said Bishop David Graves of the Alabama-West Florida (AWF) Conference. “The residents of Panama City, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Marianna and many surrounding inland communities suffered significant property loss and trauma. Sadly, these communities continue to lose neighbors when the trauma becomes too much for some to handle.  Despite all of our denominational heartache, our disaster response program, with the help of UMCOR, exhibits what is best in our connection.” 

AWF Recovery provides housing in Panama Beach in a retreat house that accommodates 100 volunteers and this summer, some new centers opened in the affected areas to house volunteers.  Teams that wish to register should use the website:  www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org.  Questions should be directed to the toll-free phone number (888) 942-4477 or emailed to hurricanemichaelrecovery@awfumc.org.

Hurricane Florence

South Carolina Conference Disaster Recovery needs volunteers to roof houses, repair siding, install sheetrock, repair floors and other tasks to return South Carolina families to safe situations from Hurricane Florence (Sept 14, 2018), as well as from October 2015 flooding and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Whether you can help for a couple of days or a week. Whether you have an experienced team or you want to come alone and work alongside new friends. Whether you are young or old, experienced or not, local or out-of-state.

Your time and talents are needed. To volunteer, please contact UMCSC Disaster Recovery at:

North Carolina Conference has appealed for Early Response Team (ERT) help from outside the Southeast and they will accept both regular ERT and ERT-led teams (at least one person including the leader must have ERT training). 

The North Carolina Conference requests that interested parties should first consult the Barbara Burnside, the New England Conference Disaster Response coordinator to pass on any updates about the response before teams contact disasterresponse@nccumc.org or call the NC Conference Disaster Call Center at (888) 440-9167.

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.

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.

FLORIDA: The Florida Annual Conference reports that they have over 2.5 million FEMA registrations, and the Conference is focusing on under-served 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.

TEXAS: 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: Whether you are interested in helping the continued response to Hurricane Harvey (2017) or to the summer flooding (2018-19) or the newest flooding in 2019, Rio Texas needs teams in southern Texas.  Check out their website for information on areas of response, types of teams needed or to volunteer.

California Wildfires

Both California-Nevada (Cal-Nev) and California-Pacific (Cal-Pac) Conferences are in the long-term recovery phase for the Camp Fire, the most deadly in California’s history; UMCOR has been resourcing both conferences for these responses.  

Patrick Troy, a long-term volunteer from NEAC headed out to Cal-Nev Sept. 5, 2019 to serve, stopped in Wisconsin to help with flood recovery and also volunteered in Marianna, FL (pictured here in FL where he helped clear land so the homeowner could rebuild).

Both CA conferences now have moved into the long-term recovery phases from the 2017 and 2018 wildfire and mud\slide disasters. 

Cal-Pac disaster responders are working with various disasters, including fire (e.g. Lilac Fire near San Diego), flooding, and volcanos in Hawaii.

CAL-NEV Northern California has experienced devastating fires every summer since 2015. The North Bay Fire Storm in October 2017 left thousands without homes; a large percentage had no insurance or were hugely underinsured. 

2017 Firestorm – Mendocino County (Redwood Valley and Potter Valley)

  • Work is typically Monday - Friday with a Sunday evening arrival.
  • All levels of skill are welcome.
  • Smaller teams and individuals are welcome. We can combine groups.
  • This work is being done in partnership with Hope Crisis Response Network

Volunteer housing has been made available in Redwood Valley and is just $50 a week per person. There are bunk beds, a full kitchen, 2 full bathrooms and a living space - and Wi-Fi (a bit slow, but it's there). Bunk beds are available for up to 12, but there's some floor space available for air mattresses.

Proof of ONLINE BACKGROUND CHECK AND SAFE SANCTUARIES CLEARANCE or your conference equivalent is required.

2015 -2017 fires – Lake County (Middletown)

  • Teams large and small - and even individuals - are invited to participate.
  • Arrangements for your visit are made directly with our partner, Hope City 
  • Dorm housing sleeps up to 48 in real beds (some bunk).
  • Full commercial kitchen, large eating and gathering area, meals provided with lots and lots of snacks, and pretty good Wi-Fi.
  • Construction coordination and tools are provided by Hope City.

NOTE:  Although the Hope City website includes links to register for Mendocino and other locations, we ask that UMVIM teams register only for Lake County directly through the link. If you are wanting to go to Mendocino, please contact Danielle, the volunteer coordinator, listed below. Information on other locations will be sent out as soon as our Conference has support in place

In Cal-Nev, contact Volunteer Coordinator Danielle Rodrick Juszczak 707-621-2000 & copy Shari Sandoval for more information about the rebuild.  

In Cal-Pac contact Judy and Doug Lewis for more information about volunteering.


The 2020 UMVIM-UMCOR Mission Academy on April 14-17 has been cancelled. Look for reschedule dates possibly in the fall. 

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 Team Opportunities

Contact Barbara Burnside if you have a volunteers in mission (VIM) or ERT team seeking other team members or want ERT or UMVIM team training or re-certification.