In 2016, young people from Puyallup UMC visited Pateros, Wash. to support the Rebuild effort for their annual mission exposure. They helped Volunteer in Mission teams with clean-up, light construction, and importantly, met with the people of Okanogan County to learn about the lives of those affected by the Washington Wildfires.

By Gerri Harvill, Stan Norman, and Jim Truitt
Photos by PNW UMVIM, et. al.

“Thanks to generous donations and strong partnerships, funding for the final phase of recovery has been identified. We, along with our many partners, now have the financial resources to complete this remarkable recovery. This is a huge step forward.”

It’s winter in Okanogan County, the Connecticut-sized county in North Central Washington that was devastated by two of its largest wildfires in 2014 and 2015. Winter makes outside work nearly impossible, but while rebuilding of homes for survivors of the wildfires has shifted inside, the countywide wildfire recovery is moving forward rapidly.

United Methodists have a reputation for being one of the first in and the last out when it comes to disasters; the Okanogan Wildfire Recovery is no exception. In 2015 through 2017, 26 UMVIM rebuild teams were deployed 46 times to the Okanogan to work on houses. Several UMVIM teams are already signed up for the 2018 construction period and more are still needed to complete the work of recovery.

Financially, The Pacific Northwest (PNW) Conference Disaster Response Team has been awarded and managed $30,000 in UMCOR Emergency Grants and $360,000 in UMCOR Recovery Grants. The people and churches of the PNW Conference contributed $37,000 for recovery from the 2014 fires (Carlton Complex) in volunteer support, tools, and building supplies through the Conference Disaster Response Fund (Advance #352). In addition, the Disaster Response Fund supported the critical work of Disaster Case Managers in 2015 and 2016 with another $100,000 donation. That’s over half a million dollars ($527,000) in United Methodist funding in the last 3 years and 3 months. The Disaster Response Team also managed an additional $127,000 in Red Cross Recovery Grants.

At the PNW Annual Conference in June 2016, we initiated a fund-raising campaign called “Rebuild: Up from the Ashes” to help fund recovery from the 2015 Okanogan Complex wildfires. The people of the PNW Conference have once again demonstrated their amazing generosity by raising over $230,000 in the last 18 months! That brings the total contribution from United Methodists to over three-quarters of a million dollars ($757,000). Through judicious use of funds set aside for disaster response training and coordination by the Conference Board of Global ministries, we have managed all grants and donations with an administrative overhead of less than 1%.

Thanks to generous donations and strong partnerships, funding for the final phase of recovery has been identified. We, along with our many partners, now have the financial resources to complete this remarkable recovery. This is a huge step forward. And… we still need volunteers to complete the construction of the last six houses. Please consider giving of your time and talents to help us finish the job. Let’s go help some people!


We encourage you to continue to contribute to the PNW Conference Disaster Response Fund (Advance #352) because it’s only a matter of time before the next disaster strikes close to home. After January 31, 2018, those donations will go into the “undesignated” portion of the Fund, available for the next challenge that we’ll face together.

Special thanks to Andy O’Donnell and Pastor Karen Yokota Love.

Special thanks to Barry Hansen and Rosalee Mohney for their work over the years in support of the Rebuild: Up from the Ashes and Okanogan County.

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