A few UMVIM Early Response Team members from Washington and Oregon visited North Carolina to help the clean-up of flood-damaged homes from November 9 to 14, 2016.

By Donna Parkes with Dana & Kathy Bryson

A pile of rubbish lies in the middle of town – one of many scenes in the wake of Hurricane Matthew after the storm began in late September 2016.


Members from Kennewick First UMC had the honor of serving on an Early Response Team (ERT) for Hurricane Matthew relief & response in early November. They included team leader Kathy Bryson, her husband Dana, and Donna Parkes. They were joined by five other volunteers from Western Washington and Oregon.

The Southeast Jurisdictional Conference determined early on that there were not enough local resources to address the substantial need, and they made a nationwide call for assistance. The ERT that mobilized from this area was a cooperative effort of The Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conferences.

Early Response Teams helped dry out homes, sanitize work areas, and removed flood-damaged materials.

Each person arranged a flight to arrive in Norfolk, Va. on November 8, and from that point we amassed as a team to travel together to Avon, on the outer banks of North Carolina. We got our marching orders from Tom Dickinson, a delightful and energetic volunteer coordinator, to where we would be working. Even though hampered by little or no cell phone coverage, he juggled all of the volunteer teams that were put at his disposal with competence and a wonderful sense of humor!

ERTs were welcomed to a local firehouse full of amenities for guests: including a working kitchen, meeting area, and television.
A water tower in Avon.

The City of Avon (also known as Kinnakeet) housed us in their firehouse, which can only be described as “plush!” Beds, hot showers, cushy chairs around a conference table, commercial-type kitchen (Wow!) Our primary assignment saw us traveling to Hatteras to work on a home that had been flooded. Wet and moldy materials (floor, insulation, wallboard and paneling) had to be removed to facilitate rebuilding. We also helped at a home where a tree had been blown over onto the house.

It was a privilege to be a part of this eight-person team. However, I have a profound sense that we get way too much credit for what we did. In reality, we were the “tip of the iceberg.” The behind-the-scenes operatives were numerous, and they ministered to us in so many ways:

• There was a kind individual who donated two vehicles for our use (an SUV and pickup truck) with his only request to return them with full gas tanks

• The church ladies at St. John’s UMC in Avon who fed us four delicious dinners (and shared stories about storms and the resiliency of the outer banks people)

• The congregation at Little Grove UMC in Frisco who welcomed us with open arms Sunday morning

• The fortuitous scheduling of a Young Life fund-raiser dinner at the Avon firehouse where we were introduced to “low country boil.” (If you didn’t need a whole stack of napkins to mop up your hands and arms after the meal, then you weren’t getting into it properly).

Makeshift boats created by refugees washed ashore during Hurricane Matthew.

We also had very sobering experiences. The one that most comes to mind is viewing three boats that had washed ashore during the hurricane. They appeared to have been refugee boats from Cuba that had been blown way off course. Using the “term” boats is being generous. They were “flotation devices” that had been cobbled together from scrap materials. I doubt if anyone in this community would board such a vessel to try to cross the Columbia River, let alone take to sea to try to get to Florida. It’s hard to even contemplate the circumstances that would make a person hazard such a journey, yet it happens in this world on a daily basis.

Each of us who volunteered knew we were responsible for paying our own expenses. However, much of our costs were covered by donations from many sources. We will never know who all the angels were who helped us in this way, but I want to say a profound “Thank you!”

Sincere thanks to Kennewick UMC and to The PNW Conference.

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