Florida Conference to aid relief effort from Kentucky tornadoesDisaster Recovery Missions and Outreach
Recovering from catastrophic damage wrought by the tornado outbreak over the weekend could take years, but the machinery to begin that process is already in motion.
In the United Methodist Church, that means following established disaster response protocols by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in an organized, systematic way.
While statewide conferences in the hardest-hit areas, especially Kentucky, will work directly with UMCOR and established relief agencies like FEMA and the Red Cross, conferences in other states begin fund-raising and preparing their relief teams to go for in-person assistance if asked.
In this case, the Florida Conference will take its cue from its colleagues in Kentucky.
CAN YOU HELP?
The United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) is coordinating fund-raising for victims of last weekend's catastrophic tornadoes.
For now, that request is simple: the people affected by this calamity need money and prayers while long-term relief is organized.
"Something as devastating as this will take years to recover from," said Trish Warren, the Florida Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. "The emergency response is going on now in Kentucky, and that consists of search and rescue. When that is finished, then early response and recovery begins."
The scope of the damage in Kentucky is staggering.
In Mayfield—with a population of about 9,800—few buildings remain standing after an F-3 tornado struck with 150-mph winds in the darkness of early Saturday morning. Many homes and businesses can't be salvaged as residents lost everything.
The 100-year-old Mayfield First UMC, described by the New York Times as "a cavernous sanctuary with a stone facade," was destroyed in seconds.
There was no power, running water, or food in the hours after the catastrophe. Leveled businesses meant lost jobs, and people were lucky to escape with the clothes on their backs.
"Local districts will assist with that instead of us going in with clothes and water," Warren said.
That includes undamaged churches offering their facilities as a shelter for displaced people. Others donated bedding and hygiene supplies.
|Photo from Mayfield UMC Facebook page|
Churches throughout the Florida Conference are asking members to donate money for the relief effort. And when it does come time to send in teams to help with repairs, the Conference has 350 early response teams ready to lend assistance.
In a website post, Kentucky Disaster Response Coordinator Jim Morse stressed that Mayfield was not the only place rocked by the storm.
"The majority of the local and national news has focused on Mayfield because of the tremendous damage there, but areas east of there, stretching past Bowling Green, also have been hard hit," he said. "We are still working to gather information from those parts of the state.
The emotional damage can be overwhelming.
"Survivors will need spiritual and emotional care and support. Are there trained local resources available to support these needs?" Morse said. "This type of support and care is not for everyone. It is very easy, despite the best of intentions, to say or do something that is hurtful or damaging to a survivor."
Recovery is a massive undertaking that cannot be rushed. As a veteran of dealing with Florida disasters, including Hurricane Irma and the recent Surfside condo collapse, Warren understands what a long, arduous path is ahead for those affected by these storms.
The Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church stands with those who lost loved ones, lost their homes, and desperately need to be embraced by the love of Jesus.
"We'll help in any way we can," she said. "It's just getting started."
Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for FLUMC.org.
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