Arkansas responds to flood damage in Southeast District and Louisiana

Southern Arkansas University’s President Ambassadors, Wesley Foundation Student Ministries, Student Affairs, SAU Staff and SAU Faculty in September helped load 37 cleaning buckets to send to UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana. PHOTO BY AARON WALLIS / SOUTHERN ARKANSAS UNIVERSITY

Southern Arkansas University’s President Ambassadors, Wesley Foundation Student Ministries, Student Affairs, SAU Staff and SAU Faculty in September helped load 37 cleaning buckets to send to UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana.
PHOTO BY AARON WALLIS / SOUTHERN ARKANSAS UNIVERSITY

By Amy Forbus
Editor

United Methodists of Arkansas are in the midst of responding with help for those dealing with damage from recent flooding in southeast Arkansas and the Baton Rouge area of Louisiana.

Disaster Response co-coordinator/Volunteers in Mission coordinator Byron Mann has made multiple journeys to the south to participate in the coordination of disaster response efforts and to deliver supplies donated by United Methodists here at home.

Response has been so strong that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)’s Sager Brown Depot, which stores relief supplies until they are needed, has announced that their supply of cleaning buckets is sufficient for the time being.

“We will continue to accept cleaning buckets ready to pick up; just don’t put any more together,” said Disaster Response co-coordinator Janice Mann. “We will divide those received among the staging areas around Arkansas, and Sager Brown for the network.”

Sager Brown, which distributes worldwide from its facility in Baldwin, Louisiana, has asked that United Methodists continue assembling and sending Health Kits and School Kits; find the instructions for those sets of supplies in the Ingathering story on the cover of this issue.

Janice Mann reported that two new grants have been awarded for repairs and various unmet needs associated with the flooding. One grant from UMCOR will cover materials and supplies, while a second grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy will pay for administrative needs.

“Two long-term recovery groups are currently at work in Desha County and in Chicot County at this time,” she said. “The case management team is discovering homes that were never cleaned out after the flood.”

Supplies donated, delivered

Byron Mann’s most recent delivery to Louisiana included cleaning buckets, health kits and empty boxes for use at the Adventist Community Services Warehouse in Baton Rouge, plus a special donation from a northwest Arkansas company that counts two United Methodists among its owners.

Jim Boyd has been a member of Central UMC Fayetteville since he was 11 years old. And as one of five owners of Universal Fastener Outsourcing, LLC, he knew that they had a stock of “perfectly good, unused, in the box, ready to go” tools and supplies that had experienced slow sales just because of changes in the market. He and W.C. Litzinger, another of the company’s owners who is a member of Sequoyah UMC, decided to donate those materials to help recovering households replace subfloors, exterior decks and fences lost to the floods.

“The only way I’m going to feel comfortable [with the donation] is if I go through my church, so that the fasteners and tools are used for what we want them to be,” Boyd said. “I trust the United Methodists are going to do it right.”

They expect to bring in their distribution partners in Louisiana to help store and manage the donations, but that will have to happen later. Right now, those partners are still recovering from the flooding, too.

As it stands, they have sent 74 working tools, plus additional non-working tools to mine for replacement parts. They hope this stock will help create a tool check-out resource for homeowners who haven’t lost an entire deck or floor, but need to make repairs. The Arkansas Conference Center for Technology has provided asset tags for numbering and tracking the tools.

“We always have the intent to help people, but you don’t always necessarily have it come together [so that] what you have will actually help the people that need it at the time,” Boyd said. “Hopefully these will be used for several years, not just this one situation.”

Additional supplies specifically requested by the Louisiana Conference Disaster Response Team include tools that will help flood victims finish cleaning out homes, then “household kits” to aid in the process of settling back into their houses once repairs are complete. For a list of these household kits, which will also be accepted at this year’s Ingathering Nov. 19 in Little Rock, visit https://goo.gl/1dvELT.

Mission Academy

A timely training opportunity for responding to these disasters took place Sept. 11-14: the South Central Jurisdiction’s Mission Academy, held at Mount Sequoyah Retreat and Conference Center in Fayetteville. A number of Arkansas participants among the more than 100 attendees made significant contributions to the event, according to Janice Mann.

Academy participants experienced the worship leadership of the Revs. Carl Palmer and Nathan Kilbourne, as well as the training expertise of Dan Dunn, who taught the “Simple Construction” course, and Kevin Overholt, who led training in chainsaw use (which was rated in evaluations as the most helpful course offered).

“Hands-on and classroom training and great worship, along with networking and fun with old friends and new—I’d say 2016 Mission Academy was a huge success!” she said.

To learn about future training opportunities for disaster response certification and more, contact Janice Mann at disaster@arumc.org.