By Jim Truitt | Photos by Wikipedia, et. al.
In the last few weeks, two of the largest natural disasters in American history have occurred. Hurricane Harvey slammed into the central Gulf coast of Texas on August 25 with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. Before the storm moved on, it dumped 52 inches of rain in the Houston and Beaumont areas. About 680,000 people have registered for FEMA individual assistance. Then on September 10, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 3 hurricane. The storm worked its way up the Florida peninsula and into Georgia. Emergency Management officials are still attempting to assess the damage.
The Rio and Texas United Methodist Conferences have asked for Early Response Team (ERT) assistance from outside of their Conferences to help with muck out, debris clean-up and tarping. ERTs from the Southern part of the US were the first to respond. They could get there quickly and many of them had the equipment and tools needed for the task because they had often suffered similar events. The Disaster Response teams from The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area (GNWEA) jointly assessed our ability to rapidly deploy teams and determined it would be best for us to take a more conservative approach.
It will take at least four days for us to drive to Corpus Christi or Houston pulling one of our ERT trailers. Therefore, it seems more cost-effective for us to fly to Texas and partner with another ERT that have tools and equipment we can share. The Desert Southwest (DSW) and Cal-Pac Conferences plan to take one of their trailers to the area and leave it for Western Jurisdiction teams to use. They have also invited individual ERT volunteers to join one of their teams.
We are looking at sending teams to Texas in late October and early November (and yes, there will still be plenty of work for us to do). This will give us time to work out the logistics and finances for the trips. If you are really anxious to go make a difference, contact Polly Turner, DSW ERT Coordinator, at Polly@ix.netcom.com or (480) 861-9033 and volunteer for one of their teams. They are planning to send at least six teams starting on September 18. If you are interested in joining one of the teams from the GNWEA, contact Kathy Bryson, PNW ERT Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org, (509) 539-2978 or Becky Platt, OR-ID ERT Coordinator at email@example.com, (503) 680-5015.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovksy has requested that each church in the GNWEA take special collections during the month of September for either UMCOR or ERT support. Both of these are very worthy recipients. It will take billions of dollars to recover from Hurricane Harvey and UMCOR is well-known for its stewardship of donations. It will also take thousands of volunteers to make the recovery happen. ERTs are the front line volunteers and it will take financial resources to get our teams to Texas. We encourage you to prayerfully consider volunteering and soliciting funds to offset the travel expenses of our ERTs.
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Jim Truitt serves as the disaster response coordinator for UMVIM in the PNW Conference.