PNW Disaster Response:
Riverside Park, the Unfunded Disaster
By The Rev. Stan Norman

Earth, Wind and Fire was the title of my last posting. Let’s talk money for a moment.

Earth: the Oso Mudslide, is in the recovery phase.
Long Term Recovery Groups are working very hard to help victims of the March mudslide to recover their lives. Thanks to your incredible generosity, there is about $100,000 in the Conference Disaster Response Fund dedicated to the Oso Mudslide. Amazing! Keep it up!

Fire: the Eastern Washington Wildfires are in the relief phase, soon starting the recovery phase.
These Wildfires destroyed more than 300 homes and burned up more real estate than any wildfire in Washington State history. Remember, the three stages are response, relief, and recovery, in that order. Your generosity has produced nearly $30,000 in the Conference Disaster Response Fund for Fire. Amazing! Keep it up!

But, what about Wind?
You’ve seen some of the pictures. The Riverside Mobile Home Park north of Spokane was devastated by a violent windstorm on July 23. The windstorm happened at the height of the Eastern Washington Wildfires, was very localized, and received very little media attention. As many homes were destroyed in Riverside as were destroyed by the Oso Mudslide. But…Riverside Park is a low-income community. The residents of Riverside had nothing before the windstorm, they have less than nothing now.


The Riverside Mobile Home Park (Spokane, Wash.) was destroyed by a violent windstorm in late July. Please encourage your local church to give to the PNW Conference and designate your gift as “Disaster Response” or “Advance #352”. Photo(s) by Sue Norman.

Here’s the rub: Riverside is too small for UMCOR recovery funds; the Conference is expected to deal with this relatively small, local disaster. The “Catch 22” is that the $130,000 in the Conference Disaster Response Fund is designated for the Oso Mudslide and the Eastern Washington Wildfires…and your Disaster Response Team is unable to apply your generosity where it is needed most: in Riverside! Designated Giving may have been a good idea in 1959, but it is most certainly a terrible idea today!

We are working with a wonderful group of churches who have banded together to serve North Spokane County. Spokane Covenant United Methodist Church and Green Bluff Community United Methodist Church are members of New Hope Resource Center, the ecumenical group that is leading the Riverside response and recovery.

When we were talking about Riverside, the head of UMCOR, Greg Forrester, shared this example with me. Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, UMCOR is still trying to spend the funds dedicated to Katrina response. It doesn’t matter that there are more pressing needs and more recent disasters, UMCOR’s hands are tied by designated giving.

We will be working on the “designated giving” issue over the next year, but, in the meantime, the residents of Riverside Park need our help! Please be generous once more. Give to the Pacific Northwest Conference Disaster Response Fund, Advance #352.

Please…please…do not write “Riverside” on the memo line of your check, write the advance number (#352) or “Disaster Response.”

We live in a very fast-paced and media-enhanced world; when you give your money to help us deal with local disasters, please don’t tie our hands by telling us which disaster. In the time it has taken me to write this blog, the needs may well have changed!

The Rev. Stan Norman is the Annual Conference Disaster Response Team Coordinator (UMCOR) for the PNWUMC.


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  1. Glad that we are helping with the folks at Riverside. If any of them are veterans, they can get help by calling Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest, Mon. -Fri. 8am-5pm @ 509-444-4320 to speak with an outreach specialist with Supportive Services for Veteran families (ssvf).

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