April 29: Disaster Response update and volunteer needs


Disaster Update:  Friday night, April 29, 2011


Dear UM disaster recovery servants,

Many of you have asked how you can help the Ringgold community.  There is an opportunity now.  As you can imagine in a situation as serious and fluid as this one, changes have happened very rapidly.

Today we learned that Ringgold UMC will serve as the short-term and long-term site for recovery in partnership with GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency), UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief), American Red Cross and other groups dedicated to relief and recovery. 

There is an immediate need this weekend for volunteers.  Tomorrow and Sunday, we need as many as 200 volunteers to partner with trained, credentialed recovery specialists to assist in assessment, clean-up, and distribution ministries.   Specifically, UMCOR teams are coming to Ringgold on Saturday.

Volunteers are needed for four specific teams, two of which will be going out into the Ringgold Community:
1) On Site Distribution of food & water (If you are interested in team 1, call Donna Greeson at 423-645-4100)
2) Care/Assessment Team: head out into the community and asses who needs help/care
3) Manual Labor/Clean Up Team: help clear debris, move down limbs, etc.
4) Church Security Team: 2 shifts (morning & night)

At this point volunteers (adults only, 18 and older) for teams 2-4, should be prepared to serve for a full day shift from 8 am to 5 pm on Saturday and/or Sunday.  As access to the community is limited to credentialed workers and residents, we will bussing in from an off site location, beginning at 7:00 AM both days.  The bus will run back and forth and plans are to be training volunteers at 8 AM at the church in the fellowship hall.    Volunteers should meet at the residence of Mike and Sandra Steakley’s at 928 Chapman Road (near Bailey’s BBQ).  

Suggested items to bring:
Comfortable Closed toe shoes (much walking is involved if you are on Team 2 or 3)
Digital Camera to take photos of home damage (only if asked!!)
Pen/pencil to write
Heavy work gloves
Your lunch & a drink
Able bodied persons are sked to come dressed to clear debris

Additionally, they are working on plans for worship this Sunday.  At this time, they are planning 2 services.  The plan is to have a 9 AM Community Prayer and Worship Service in the parking lot of the church for community residents and working volunteers.   Later that evening we will gather for a Community Worship Service for all Ringgold UMC and other downtown area churches at Heritage High School at 7:00.

Most of all, thanks for your prayers and eagerness to respond with the love of God in Christ,

Rev. John Purrington
Pastor, Ringgold UMC

Disaster Update:  Friday afternoon, April 29, 2011

Many thanks to our congregations of North Georgia for your concern, actions, and support as we begin to unfold the full impact of this disaster.  The response has been overwhelmingly affirming and helpful.

Here’s what we know today…

We have a person on the ground looking at all the sites of which we are aware.  These assessments are being managed by the Conference Disaster Team which is setting up a Call Center at Simpsonwood.

Mike Yoder, the Chair of our Conference Disaster Response Team is the current President of Georgia VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) and he has a standing 3:00 p.m. daily conference call with all the players, ALL the players, each day.  The latest truths of what is going on and what is needed will be updated on our web site each afternoon after that call.

(Please see update above on call for volunteers in Ringgold). Ringgold UMC has been approved by GEMA to serve as a response center. Also, UMCOR is coming tomorrow to that area with food for the Red Cross and they will be serving meals out of the Ringgold kitchen.  The state has also asked the UMC to operate that HQ for the foreseeable future.  Initially this will mean keeping volunteer personnel in place 24 hours per day…and in time, keeping regular hours for quite some time.  The city is still shut down to anyone but certified relief workers.  More on how to get involved a.s.a.p. ahead.

We have a designated HQ site in Rome that is now operational.  If you want to get involved immediately you can do so by contacting them:  Teams should go to the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) in the Lakeview Building at GA Highlands College on Cedartown HWY in Rome where they can get supplies like trash bags, tarps, etc., and a list of roads in areas that have needs. They can use trained chain saw teams and debris clean up, as in hauling limbs curbside, etc. 

If you would like to help in disaster relief in Floyd County and can get a team of 4 or more people together call Jim Bradshaw at 770-546-4766 and let him know how many people you can bring, what skills they have and when you are available.  Make sure to identify yourself to Mr. Bradshaw as United Methodist volunteers. They need people who can run chainsaws and clear debris as well as deliver relief supplies to affected homes. The goal is to be able to schedule people as quickly as possible when and where needed.

Other than the Ringgold and Rome locations mentioned above, no other sites are receiving teams at this time. Certified disaster response crews are still very busy cutting trees from roads, managing downed power lines, and trying to get things safe.  Most damage areas don’t want visitors or volunteers yet.  People need time to sort through the rubble for personal property and outsiders complicate things.  Damage is profound and standing structures are not necessarily safe to work in our around. Please wait until an all clear is given before venturing in to help.

The process going forward is pretty clear:

1.  Clean up.  This will take about three weeks perhaps four. The only labor needed when they call for “all hands on deck” in this period will be strong backs and heavy gloves.

2.  Collecting and stockpiling supplies.  We understand Chatsworth First UMC has been designated as a drop site for United Way of Northwest Georgia and the Red Cross of Northwest Georgia. They will be collecting bottled water, personal hygiene items, and cleaning items Sunday afternoon from 1pm till 5pm and Monday through Friday from 8am till 4pm. They ask that people not bring clothes or perishable food items. Items that are needed include toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine products, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, diapers, formula, bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, soap.

More sites for collecting supplies will be designated early next week.  NO CLOTHES.

3.  As clean up winds down, assessment teams begin to ramp up.  They will begin a “case study” approach to every situation: Is there insurance?  Is there a need to rebuild?  What is required?  When? How much? Etc.  These case files drive the long term rebuilding that will begin in about four weeks.  At that time, specialized skills and teams will be required.

We will have a complete listing of all contact persons and phone numbers for each site by Monday.  These contact persons will be the primary conduit of coordination and team management.  Before you send a team anywhere, check with the list and make the call.  Just showing up without having made the call first can easily lead to your group becoming part of the problem rather than the solution.  Mistakes such as showing up without the correct tools/supplies, overloading a site while others go without, not having food and water for the team, not having power, etc.  A simple phone call in proper time makes everything and everyone more effective and efficient.  Again, the list of contact persons will be available on the web Monday.

There is great concern about all the folks displaced from homes; where do they stay now, what do they need now?  As I write we are waiting and hoping that President Obama will designate Georgia a Federal Disaster Area making access to funds and resources much easier for all involved. The Georgia Homeless Council has met and they have 10,000 homes ready to be rented for disasters such as this which can be rented with federal funds.  If the state is not given disaster status, paying rent will have to be approached differently.  This will be clear soon.  In any case, housing and food is being addressed in real time by various agencies.

If you want to help right now, plan on supporting a special offering this Sunday or whenever you can in the months ahead.  In disaster response, cash is king!  The funds will be administered by our own Conference Disaster Response Team, and the trained case managers who have prepared for this kind of work and have experience in keeping things moving along properly and helpfully.

Thanks for what I know will be a meaningful effort to bring as much support and assistance to bear as is possible. 
Mike Selleck
Dir. Of Connectional Ministries
Mike Yoder
Chair of Conference Disaster Response

Previous disaster response updates

April 28 Update