The connection and the flood
S.C. gets donations, work teams from host of other conferences
By Jessica Brodie
As South Carolina United Methodists continue their long-term effort to rebuild and repair homes and churches damaged after the October floods, Christian brothers and sisters outside the state are pitching in with hammer, nail—and checkbook.
Nearly half of what the South Carolina Conference has received in flood funds has come from sources outside this state, the treasurer’s office reports, showing many that in times of need, the full Methodist family can truly be counted on for help. As of the end of November, of the $310,124 donated to South Carolina for flood relief, $163,547 came from within the state and $146,577 from beyond—as far away as California.
“What speaks to me is the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church and how quickly these other states have responded to our needs,” said Beth Westbury, conference treasurer. “Before we were even able to say we need help, they were saying, ‘I’m sending you a check.”
The Rev. Gregg Varner, conference disaster relief coordinator, said the United Methodist connection is exemplified by this strong outpouring of help, both labor and financial.
“We should all be proud to be United Methodist,” Varner said. “We have sent teams all over the Southeast, and here we are having a flood and some of the places we have been are now sending teams to help us. That kind of connection you can’t put a value on.”
Indeed, states that have been impacted by much disaster themselves are stepping up in significant ways. Louisiana residents have given the most, at $27,535, followed by Mississippi at $27,000 and Alabama at $22,409. Many conferences have also been sending United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and other teams to do muck-outs and other needed work, many of them bringing checks along with tools and building materials, Westbury said.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief donated a $20,000 emergency grant, and South Carolina Conference is in the process of applying for a $1 million UMCOR grant for long-term recovery.
In early December, the North Carolina Conference sent two teams to help in locations near the border, one of them comprising the North Carolina Resident Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and her cabinet—including all eight district superintendents. Varner said several other conferences are on the schedule to come do work here in South Carolina.
“We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Ward told the Advocate, noting the North Carolina Conference is no stranger to disaster; they are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Floyd 16 years ago. “I called and said, ‘We want to come,’ and we had a Cabinet meeting scheduled, and we said, ‘Let’s not meet. Let’s go to South Carolina.’ It’s good to help. We’ve already been tremendously blessed by being here.”
‘An opportunity to love’
Ward and the North Carolina Cabinet spent Dec. 7 and 8 working with the Rev. George Olive and others in the Marion District. For part of their time, they spent nearly a full day emptying the contents of one woman’s garage that had gotten tremendous water damage. Enid Schlegel, 79, lives in the Tilghman Forest neighborhood with her husband, Ronald, who has dementia, and their two Manchester terriers. Schlegel said it touched her heart to know fellow Christians would step up and help her do something she couldn’t possibly do on her own. A lake in her backyard had crested, and while she was able to prevent significant damage to the main home by putting down blankets and quilts, the garage—and many of her precious mementoes—were not so lucky.
“It’s wonderful,” she said, tears pricking as she clutched a box of moldy Christmas decorations, one of many personal items she lost to the flood. “I just think it’s fantastic that they’d come and help.”
“This is just the beginning of us being here,” said Gil Wise, North Carolina Beacon District superintendent, said from behind a full box he was carrying to their UMVIM trailer.
The Rev. Kenneth Locklear, North Carolina’s Gateway District superintendent, agreed, noting they are trying their best to be the hands and feet of the Lord.
“It’s a great opportunity to give an expression of love to people who need a hand of outreach right now,” Locklear said.
Eight of the 12 districts in the South Carolina Conference have been affected by the flood, and Conference Communications Director Matt Brodie said full recovery could take as much as 10 years. The Hurricane Joaquin-fueled Oct. 3-4 storm left South Carolina in a state of emergency, with a massive swath of the state underwater. Nineteen died in the storm, and parts of the Lowcountry got more than two feet of rainwater, while Columbia got up to 16 inches. Dams failed, ponds overflowed and major rivers crested. Hundreds of roads, bridges and huge sections of interstates closed, including a 70-mile stretch of I-95.
How to help
The conference has transitioned to “phase two” in flood relief, and needs have shifted from health kits and cleaning buckets to long-term recovery: housing mission teams, providing regional office space, donating to the conference’s long-term flood fund and more.
Varner said a huge need right now is host churches for the UMVIM teams.
“It’s usually for three to six days at a time, and the churches need to have a room where people can bunk, bathrooms, a decent kitchen and preferably a few showers,” he said. Email [email protected] to volunteer.
A downloadable bulletin insert on how to help is available at www.umcsc.org/screcovery.
Here are a few ways churches can help currently:
- Provide housing with a kitchen and showers for out of town UMVIM Teams (contact Chelsey Faircloth at 803-786-9486)
- Be sure all families or individuals with flood damage and unmet needs have contacted the conference office and have an application for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration (deadline is Jan. 4).
- Donate to the South Carolina Conference Flood Relief Fund (www.umcsc.org/screcovery)
- Provide small office facilities to accommodate people helping with flood relief in Charleston/Summerville, Columbia and the Florence areas
- Volunteer your construction skills to do assessments, assist with acquiring building permits, deliver materials to job sites, etc.
- Get trained to be on an Early Response Team or UMVIM team
- Help with House In a Box, a response from the National Society of St. Vincent de Paul to any natural disaster affecting families with loss of household furnishings. The program provides new furniture, which includes a bed, linens, up to two dressers, a sofa, a kitchen table with four chairs, kitchen supplies and bathroom supplies. There is no cost to the homeowner once the approval process is completed. For questions: 803-730-1241 or 803-254-7647.
Westbury said flood relief funds are still coming in, though now like a trickle, unlike at the beginning. She is looking forward to receiving the UMCOR grant and hopes families will consider helping the conference flood fund with personal donations.
“The more we have, the more we can do to help,” she said.
How to help or get flood help
For more on the conference’s flood response and how to help (or get help): [email protected], www.umcsc.org/screcovery or call Chelsey Faircloth at 803-786-9486.
To donate to flood relief, do so online or by mailing a check directly to the conference at 4908 Colonial Dr., Columbia, SC 29203 (note that it is for South Carolina Disaster Response).
To request flood assistance or volunteer assistance, contact the UMCSC flood hotline at 800-390-4911 or [email protected].
The Spanish hotline is 844-344-2270 and Spanish website is www.umcsc.org/ayuda.
Flood stories wanted for the Advocate
The Advocate welcomes stories of how your church was helped by or is helping with flood relief. Email stories and high-resolution photos to [email protected]. Deadlines are the 10th of the month for the following month’s paper.