By Larry Johnson, OR-ID ERT Coordinator and Kathy Bryson, PNW ERT Coordinator
Three Early Response Teams (ERT’s) from the Western Jurisdiction traveled to Beaufort, North Carolina October 28th through Nov 18th to work on homes damaged by Hurricane Florence in September. Even though it was eight weeks after the storm had passed, there was plenty of work to do.
Teams consisted of ERT-trained volunteers from the Pacific Northwest (PNW), Oregon-Idaho (OR-ID), Mountain Sky (Mt Sky), California-Nevada (Cal-Nev) and the Desert Southwest (DSW) Conferences. While this is not the first time multiple Conferences have come together to form ERTs, it was the greatest number formed for a common disaster response mission in recent memory.
The first team to arrive (Oct. 28-Nov. 4) was led by PNW’s Steve Meacham. Other PNW ERT volunteers were Noriko Lao, Bill Price, Kristin Ellison-Oslin and Gordon Ellison-Oslin. Doug Huey and Mary Ellen Huey from the Cal-Nev Conference rounded out the team. Team members, traveling by air at their own expense, met in Raleigh, NC. After introductions, the team drove three hours to Beaufort blazing a trail for the next two teams that would follow. Along with their volunteer work, Team 1 was also able to share valuable logistics information to help future teams transition into Beaufort.
Team 2 was led by OR-ID member Larry Johnson (Nov. 4-11). Other ERT members from OR-ID included Tom Ettleson and Jerry Iervolino. Steve Meacham, staying on for a second week, was joined by fellow PNW member Phil Turnbull. Sue Harmon and Bill Anderson, from Mt Sky, flew in from Colorado to join the team. DSW member David Whitaker made his way from Arizona making this a true Western Jurisdiction team.
PNW-led Team 3 arrived in Beaufort on Nov. 11 to continue the relief work from the previous two teams until November 18. Team leader Kathy Bryson was joined by fellow PNW ERT members Tom Osborne, Leon Alden, Cindy Matson and Woody Russell. OR-ID member Tom Ettleson stayed on for a second week joined by fellow Or/Id member Dave Powell. Completing the group was Mt Sky’s Linda Wilson. This experienced team served ten “Down East” area families by tarping roofs, removing moldy drywall and floors, hauling downed tree debris and assisting with mold spray
All three ERT Teams were hosted by Ann Street UMC. According to Sue Harmon, “We lived at the Ann Street UMC educational building in Beaufort, camping in their Sunday School classrooms.
Each morning, we saw little children coming into day care which brightened our day! Parents expressed thanks for our presence.” Team 3 was especially glad to have a place to “shelter in place” at 4am their first morning when an EF1 tornado touched down nearby!
Even though most on this team were strangers they came together quickly and became friends. Each volunteer used their unique talents and skills to help clients move toward recovery after Hurricane Florence’s devastation. Ms. Harmon shared her thoughts: “This was my first trip and it was a blessing to work as a team member alongside others from the Western Jurisdiction whom I had never met. We worked well together from the first day!”
The ERTs served a total of 19 families in the Carteret County area contributing approximately 962 hours of volunteer labor. All three teams received overwhelming praise and thankfulness from all the families that were served. The common message each family shared was that the work done by the teams was truly a blessing and gave them hope. The team’s bright green ERT shirts started many conversations! Community members asked about the United Methodist Church’s mission and expressed their thanks and gratitude for the help. They were amazed people would travel so far to help others.
These missions were made possible by the support of many in the Western Jurisdiction. If you have an interest in serving on an ERT team, contact your Conference Disaster Response Coordinator or ERT Coordinator for more information about training and mission opportunities.