Christian love in action: ERT volunteers wrap up work after double-whammy hurricanes
UMCOR $10K emergency grant helped fund ERT work in S.C.
By Billy Robinson
For two months, more than 160 volunteers worked about 3,800 hours providing Christian love in action to survivors of Hurricanes Florence and Michael, many of these survivors in dire need of help.
Hurricane Florence made landfall Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, then moved inland toward South Carolina, and Hurricane Michael swept up from the Gulf Coast and impacted South Carolina as a tropical storm Oct. 11. While the storms themselves caused problems, flooding in the aftermath was far worse.
Now, volunteers’ early response work is largely ending as the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church shifts into recovery mode.
South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers In Mission’s Early Response Team started preparation for these hurricanes well in advance along with South Carolina’s United Methodist Disaster Response Committee. Conference calls kept everyone abreast, and warnings along with vital information were sent out to all UMCSC disaster personnel.
After the storms, the Disaster Response Committee immediately started assessing the situations, and ERTs went into action across the state. There are more than 400 ERT-certified volunteers and seven disaster response trailers across our state.
We were by the grace of Almighty God spared a big-scale disaster across most of the state. But there was wind damage in several counties, then came the massive flooding in North and South Carolina, prompting major ERT responses in Cheraw, Bennettsville, McColl, Dillon, Marion, Conway, Myrtle Beach and many points in-between.
As soon as the storms blew through, we started responses to wind damage in Orangeburg County the day after Hurricane Florence came ashore in North Carolina. Over the next weeks, we responded to several other areas of our state for wind damage from Florence and Michael.
This work was helped significantly by a $10,000 emergency grant the South Carolina Conference received from the United Methodist Committee on Relief. The grant helped buy needed disaster equipment, paid for tarps and other materials and supplies, paid for some travel costs and purchased food for volunteers.
After the floods
We had to wait until the rivers crested and waters receded before we could safely respond.
In the Marion area, we first responded with 26 ERT volunteers and three ERT trailers Sept. 23. Marion hosted our teams in a home on their property that had been abandoned for eight years. They quickly got utilities, heating and air, appliances, supplies and the house in good shape to house our teams over the next months. They, along with several other churches, also fed our teams and made us feel extremely welcomed and right at home.
Heading up the hospitality and helping coordinate our response was Marion District Superintendent the Rev. Tim Rogers and Marion District Disaster coordinators the Rev. Randy Bowers and Brian Nolan. Churches also housed our teams out of Cheraw, McColl and Conway and were vital to our responses.
Our ERT core group of volunteer leaders led the way and spent many hours of intense struggles, frustration, planning, personal emergencies, coordination, finances, love, care and concern. Because of their efforts, many volunteers, teams and equipment were put into action, and we had a well-coordinated disaster response amid much chaos. Among these volunteer leaders were Chuck Marshall, the Rev. Mike Evans, Matt Brodie, Terry Rawls, Nolan, Rogers, the Rev. Ken Phelps, Don Beatty, the Rev. Fred Buchanan, the Rev. Frank Copeland and Mayo Collier.
Six major responses
Then came all the wonderful and extremely faithful volunteers and team leaders. We had six major responses that consisted of multiple teams each time and many other single-team responses to various disaster sites. Most of the response was to flooded homes and structures needing roof work such as tarps, including several churches.
Aaron Meadows of the Charleston Wesley Foundation and Phelps, who is the Pee Dee ERT coordinator, led one major response. They led 50 college students to a one-day blitz in Horry County. The majority of the students were from The Citadel and had taken the ERT class in Charleston on Sept. 22 taught by Buchanan and myself. They were provided free stay at a resort in Myrtle Beach owned by ERT Assistant Pee Dee Coordinator Gary Smith.
The big energetic group mucked out five homes and did various types of ERT work and repairs on two additional homes.
Each volunteer on each team went home a better and richer person, having grown in their faith and appreciation of God’s grace, mercy and love for all.
If you are age 18 or older and would like to help do relief or recovery work, fill out the form at www.umcsc.org/home/ministries/disaster-response/hurricane-florence-response-registration.
You can also give to disaster response at www.umcor.org.
Robinson is South Carolina UMVIM ERT coordinator.