Conference storm recovery ministry establishes care teams

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference storm recovery ministry establishes care teams

Jan. 31, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0613}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

Despite the relatively quiet 2006 hurricane season staff and volunteers of the Florida Conference’s storm recovery ministry are continuing to improve the conference’s disaster preparation and response mission.
One way that will be accomplished is by implementing and using “care teams,” small groups of volunteers who will assist people who are affected by storms with their spiritual, emotional and basic life needs, according to Pam Garrison, manager of the conference’s storm recovery center.
“It’s a very important piece of the disaster response, and we want to be very intentional about making sure that’s in place when a storm is coming,” Garrison said. “The spiritual and emotional care is where the recovery really takes place. We need to really develop this piece of the response.”

Meeting basic needs, such as providing food, water and hot meals, is a big part of the response after a disaster, but the Florida Conference's storm recovery ministry is also working to meet people's spiritual and emotional needs, as well, with the development of care teams that will be in place sometime this year. Photo by Michael Wacht. File Photo #04-0080. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #0149.

Each care team will consist of approximately two to five volunteers who are willing to talk with members and leaders of United Methodist churches in areas affected by disasters. Their initial response would happen within the first two to four weeks following a disaster.

“(They would) just kind of get the temperature of what’s going on around the local church,” Garrison said.
The teams would listen to people’s concerns and help alleviate feelings of “aloneness,” as well as connect survivors with long-term disaster recovery resources and gather information to inform those making decisions about disaster recovery.
“Even after the roof has been replaced and the repairs are completed congregations and communities are still recovering from the emotional roller coaster of the last two hurricane seasons, and the work of the care teams is to provide material and resources that address these needs,” said Marilyn Swanson, project director of the storm recovery ministry.
The conference gave its care team concept a test run last September and October. After a request from the Rev. Debbie McCleod, superintendent of the conference’s South East District, storm recovery staff quickly established several care teams to visit South Florida churches that were affected by the 2004 or 2005 storms. Each team consisted of one storm recovery staff member and two lay volunteers. The Rev. Mary Gaudreau, a field staff consultant with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, provided orientation, training and ongoing guidance for the teams. Other United Methodist conferences already use care teams.
In all, the teams attempted to contact 47 churches and made visits to 32 of them. Garrison said they learned a lot by “going out and sitting in the pastor’s office.” “This was huge to these pastors,” she added. “The conference really does care about what is going on.”
The Rev. Warren Wasson of Nokomis, a retired United Methodist pastor with 43 years of service, served on one of the care teams and confirmed Garrison’s sentiment. Wasson visited more than a half dozen churches in the Miami area, talking with pastors and key leaders.
“(They had) two primary feelings — first of all an appreciation that the conference was doing this and cared enough to send some people and see how things were going,” Wasson said. “Second, the slowness of the process in getting insurance and building refurbished (was mentioned).”
Wasson said the teams also shared “information they (church leaders) did not have concerning some resources that were available.”
In the future a pool of care team volunteers will be established and held to the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s ethical standards, Garrison said. Those standards include being affiliated and accountable to the Florida Conference, invited to serve in specific settings and trained for service.
Interested volunteers will be able to apply to become a care team member early this year. Applications will be available on the storm recovery section of the conference Web site. A list of expectations also will be clearly outlined.
“This (type of service) takes a special level of emotional and spiritual maturity,” Garrison said.
Garrison hopes to assemble a team of 25 to 50 people who are trained and ready to go when disaster strikes. Gaudreau will lead another training this spring.


This article relates to Florida Conference Storm Recovery.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.

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