ALCOA, Tenn. (Sept. 12, 2017) – Holston churches have been assembling cleaning and hygiene supplies over the last two weeks as neighbors to the south are recovering and bracing for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose.
On Sept. 12, the Rev. Harry Howe and Mark Stransky departed Project Crossroads in Marion, Va., with a trailer loaded with 650 “cleaning kits” and 800 “hygiene kits.” The kits, which have been stockpiled in district offices and other storage areas throughout Holston Conference over the summer, will be delivered to UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana, on Sept. 13, according to Howe.
An initial deadline of Sept. 12 was set for Holston churches to complete the collection of hygiene kits and cleaning kits for hurricane survivors, said the Rev. Michael Sluder, director of connectional ministries. Sluder said that arrangements will soon be made to pick up the supplies in district offices.
The loading dock at the Alcoa Conference Center, where the Maryville District office is located, is already full with at least 400 kits donated by Maryville-area churches, Sluder said. Additional kits delivered to the office building at 217 South Rankin Road in Alcoa will line the halls until they are picked up for delivery to UMCOR or to store for the next disaster, Sluder said.
In the Oak Ridge District office, Lori Hopper said she had already received 299 hygiene kits and 32 cleaning kits from local churches. “I have had several deliveries today and am expecting more tomorrow,” Hopper said on Sept. 12.
Kern Memorial United Methodist Church donated 115 hygiene kits, she said. Churches in the Cawood-Well Springs Charge delivered 78 hygiene kits.
“As of today [Sept. 11], Concord United Methodist Church had collected $20,235 to send to UMCOR,” Hopper said.
Fincastle United Methodist Church has raised more than $2,300 in LaFollette, Tenn.
In the Morristown District office, Linda Schumann said she had six cleaning kits and three dozen health kits on hand. The children at First United Methodist Church of Jefferson City were responsible for packing 20 of the health kits, she said.
As Schumann was speaking, members of Strawberry Plains United Methodist Church arrived in her office with 18 hygiene kits and 16 cleaning kits. “I am aware of several churches who are assembling multiple buckets and have not yet delivered,” she said.
“We’ve had churches collecting for UMCOR as well,” Schumann said. “One that particularly touched my heart is a little preaching station, Rehobeth UMC, that brought in $100 to the district office for hurricane relief because they weren’t sure where to send it. So they drove to the office and wrote a check on the spot from monies collected that Sunday.”
Numerous churches have shared Facebook photos and videos of their members assembling and loading cleaning and hygiene supplies for UMCOR -- from Christ United Methodist Church in Chattanooga all the way to the Ceres Charge (Bethany, Ezelle, Goodman’s Chapel, Red Oak, and Zion United Methodist Churches) in Ceres and Saltville, Va.
First United Methodist Church of Independence, Va., reported that "close to $2,000 was collected to put together 26 buckets full of cleaning supplies to be sent to UMCOR ... Almost $500 of that came from Grayson Highlands School ... We bought all the supplies we could and sent the rest to UMCOR."
Chattanooga District churches will deliver their kits to Christ United Methodist Church on Monday, Sept. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., said the Rev. Caleb Pitkin.
Other groups have found other ways to reach out to hurricane survivors.
A team from First United Methodist Church in Cleveland, Tenn., spent a week volunteering at Sager Brown Depot, from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2.
“By the end of the week our little group of 12 had verified (this means checking each bucket to make sure they are correct) and made 62 pallets of cleaning buckets ready to be shipped and used next week in Houston and the surrounding area,” reported Kellie Bracken on Sept. 1. In all, the Cleveland team worked on 2,232 cleaning kits.
Bracken noted that the number-one mistake made when assembling cleaning kits is choosing cellulose sponges instead of foam sponges. “Cellulose sponges retain moisture and cause mildew in the buckets,” she said. “So get foamy type sponges. If you can’t find them, just leave them out.”
On Sept. 11, East Ridge United Methodist Church delivered 400 meals along with toiletries, water, and fruit to Florida evacuees staying in a shelter near the church in Chattanooga. Jones Memorial United Methodist Church contributed barbecue for the evacuees.
On Sept. 1, Howe and Stransky delivered medical supplies to Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps (RAM) based in Rockford, Tenn. The supplies included wound dressings, feminine hygiene products, and wheelchair parts donated to Project Crossroads and Mel Leaman Free Clinic by Christian Appalachian Project and Labor of Love Mission. The medical supplies were loaded into trucks and delivered within 24 hours to medical providers serving hurricane survivors in Houston and Beaumont, Texas, said Chris Hall, RAM chief operations officer.
On Saturday, Sept. 16, a group of Girls Scouts will pack cleaning supplies for UMCOR at Grace United Methodist Church in Soddy Daisy, Tenn., according to the Rev. Braxton Cotton.
HOW TO HELP
Sluder said most Holston members could best help neighbors affected by the hurricanes by giving to UMCOR and continuing to collect hygiene and cleaning kits.
“They don’t need untrained volunteer teams to come into most of those areas now," Sluder said of hurricane-damaged regions in the southern states and Cuba. “If you go down there before they are ready, you are more likely to be a headache than a help.”
The Louisiana and Rio Texas Conferences are only receiving "ERT trained and badged teams," Sluder said, "and Jim Fetzer as our conference disaster response coordinator will be organizing that response." ERT stands for "Early Response Team."
The Texas Conference is currently registering volunteer teams for Hurricane Harvey response.
To help volunteers be ready to help in the future, Fetzer recently scheduled a Basic ERT Training class on Sept. 16 at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn.
“This class is being given to provide UMCOR qualification training for those who want to and will respond to disasters to assist the survivors,” said Fetzer.
To support UMCOR with money, (1) donors may give online. (2) Donors may also write checks to their local churches with “UMCOR Advance #901670” on the memo line. (3) Another option is to write checks made to “UMCOR” with “US Disaster Response #901670” and mail to: Advance GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068.
Hurricane response bulletin insert
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.