June 24, 2015 Texas Annual Conference Day in Houston
In a special City Council presentation this week, Houston Mayor Annise Parker named Wednesday, June 24, 2015 to be “Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Day” in recognition of emergency response leadership following the recent storms.
It may be true that everything is bigger in Texas – from widespread weather disasters to big-hearted United Methodists quick to send money, grab a saw, a mop – or a hand in prayer and support for the victims. Back-to-back weather disasters in recent weeks have taken their toll on Texas, but there are many happy endings in the works amidst stories of devastation. So many victims across the state are grateful, in fact, that the City of Houston honored the work of TACCOR and Westbury UMC, Houston, along with other key disaster relief agencies with a special proclamation on Wednesday. The acknowledgement also included crisis response groups from the Jewish community and the Church of Latter Day Saints. Councilman Larry Green was among the city leaders recognizing incredible response time and collaboration saying, “I am so grateful that, when people called the District K office looking for help, I had a place to send them – right in their neighborhood to Westbury UMC.”
Rev. Scott Moore, Director of TAC Mission Depot and Assistant Director of the Center for Missional Excellence, accepted the proclamation on behalf of the conference and expressed appreciation for the cooperation of the many organizations and volunteers who served. Rev. Taylor Fuerst and Rev. Hannah Terry of Westbury UMC were on hand, as well as, District Superintendent Andy Noel and Rev. Lisa Calloway from St. Phillip's UMC. Carol Greenslate, Russell LaGrone, DeWitt Cox and Kathie Mann represented TACCOR. “It is exciting to be serving as the body of Christ in this way,” notes Carol, “and we plan to be here as long as we are needed.” Hear audio from the presentation.
Needed: Funds, Volunteers, and Training
While the mainstream media has shifted gears to other news stories, the fact remains that the deep devastation in Van, Bastrop and Houston means that considerable funds will be needed for construction, key personnel, supplies and support desperately needed by the elderly and those without insurance. “The Bishop has requested congregations host special offerings and she will continue to keep this on the forefront in terms of the long term needs,” says B.T. Williamson, Assistant to the Bishop. “The generosity thus far from our local churches across the conference has been heart felt and appreciated by many. To date, churches and individuals have donated $103,257 for tornado and flood relief, however we want our folks to know that the long-term needs are projected to be about $500,000.” To continue to fund this expansive need, churches are asked to send their donations as soon as possible to the conference office so they can be put to work right away.
TACCOR coordinator Carol Greenslate consults Westbury UMC Command Central’s joint “Crisis Clean Up Board” which maps ongoing work, and is therefore thankful for the assistance this month from UM Army youth from St. Mark’s UMC Baytown. “We went from 100 volunteers a day the week after the flooding to more like 30 or less lately,” says Carol, “so we want to get the word out that will need volunteers for months to come – to help with client case management, mowing, assessments, connecting people to resources, packing and just being the church by checking in to ask how people are doing.” The recovery will be extensive because each case is different and must be handled one at a time. Volunteers can just show up, but advance planning via notification to firstname.lastname@example.org will help the projects go more efficiently.
Thousands have been impacted and displaced across Texas that translates into delays with spiking construction demands and manpower to process government funding. “This has been a wake up call for many in our denomination who might now want to take this opportunity to prepare for other such disasters through our half-day training,” adds Scott. The conference is accepting Saturday training requests from July 11th through Sept. 12th. Each class should have a minimum of 10 students. The only prerequisites are the online Safe Sanctuary training and a background check. Churches interested in the “Connecting Neighbors” training to learn how to respond to disasters can contact Kathie Mann at the Conference office: 713-521-9383.
Volunteers of all ages
With endless moving parts to this recovery operation, Carol is exercising her skills in logistics and dispatch. “It warms my heart to see the ecumenical partnerships forming we interact with the Mormons, Catholic Charities, Jewish Community Center and St. John’s Presbyterian next door and work with the VOAD and local constables,” adds Carol. “It is heartwarming to see the variety of volunteers stepping in. We recently had a father/daughter team from Kingwood UMC working together to help people get back to normal, and a group of ladies from Chapelwood UMC Houston doing walkabouts. Arnold Harden, member of Windsor Village UMC has been a regular and seminary student Russell LaGrone has been helping almost every day -- and tells me his reward for helping in the office is to go out into the field where he can further discern his call to help others.” Other groups such as White Rock UMC, Pleasant Hill UMC and Anderson Chapel UMC have traveled from as far away as Lovelady, Tx.
We’ve Only Just Begun
According to Scott, TACCOR and other conference coordinators have been on conference calls with district emergency response contacts, federal agencies and a number of organizations to set up an infrastructure where everyone handles a certain aspect of the recovery. Notes Taylor, “Next week we are gathering another meeting of community leaders to organize long-term recovery efforts. Thanks to our connectional church and the resources we have through TACCOR, we are equipped to lead the way on the long road of recovery.” See the latest updates from TACCOR