Early Response Teams, Hurricane Florence and the power of working together in the West

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ABOVE: Ann Street UMC will serve as a base camp for a WJ UMVIM team heading to North Carolina soon to offer assistance. The church in Beaufort survived the ravages of Hurricane Florence fairly well and was quickly set up as a hub for the people “Down East” to get food, supplies, and assistance.


By Kathy Bryson

As Hurricane Florence crawled towards the Eastern coastline the beginning of September UMC Early Response Team (ERT) members across the U.S. were pulling out their “go bags”, clearing their schedules and preparing to respond. Just days after the hurricane made landfall and its devastating effects were being assessed, Hurricane Michael loomed closely on its heels. The call for ERT support came quickly from North Carolina. As a result, three back-to-back Greater Northwest Episcopal Area ERTs are preparing now for week-long missions to Beaufort, North Carolina beginning Oct 28 through November 18 to support relief efforts.

Teams will be led by experienced Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conference members and will include colleagues from the California-Nevada, Desert Southwest and Mountain Sky Conferences — 22 people in total will participate with several staying on for a second week. The volunteer response to this mission is a wonderful example of The United Methodist Church’s connectivity in the Western Jurisdiction and the power of combining volunteer forces.

Hurricane Florence made landfall in Beaufort on September 14th. Beaufort is a small fishing and picturesque tourist community with a number of historic buildings. The hurricane moved very slowly bringing 20-30” of rain in 1.5 days and then a tidal surge of 7-8 feet high; it continued to pound rain into the rivers as it moved inland and then back out again. ERT members will fly into Raleigh/Durham Airport and drive east three hours to their base camp at Ann Street UMC in Beaufort.

The teams are currently slated to work in the “Down East” area, a rural location and tidal zone near the coast. Many people were displaced by the hurricane’s aftermath with some still living in damaged homes as they have nowhere else to go. ERTs will focus on making homes “safe, sanitary and secure” by clearing debris, cleaning out muck and, as always, bringing a caring Christian presence in whatever they do. Listening to survivors as they talk about their experiences and loss is the first priority for any ERT member.

The decision to join an ERT traveling across the country on a relatively short notice can be challenging. ERT members know that they are responsible for their expenses and, with a mission like North Carolina, the costs of airfare, gear bags and vehicle rentals can quickly add up.

ERT members appreciate any amount of financial support to help offset expenses. If you want to help United Methodist Early Response Teams (ERT) get to and from North Carolina, you can contribute to the Conference Advance #353 through your church or send a check to the Conference Treasurer at PNWUMC Conference Office, PO Box 13650, Des Moines, WA 98198. Put “Advance #353” on the memo line.

All gifts make a difference to the ERT members and the North Carolina families they will serve.


Kathy Bryson serves as an Early Response Team Coordinator for Pacific Northwest Conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (PNW UMVIM). Like PNW UMVIM on Facebook!

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