By Sybil Davidson
UMCOR recently sent an email with an important emphasis: "When there’s a disaster, these two words matter." Those words are "We'll help!"
United Methodists across the North Georgia Conference have said those words following hurricanes, floods, and disasters around the world. After tornadoes struck our area in 2023, you said it again.
The North Georgia Conference is grateful to share that UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief) has awarded a grant of $200,000 to go toward our long-term recovery work following 2023 tornados in our area.
On January 12, 2023 eight tornadoes impacted counties in the South West District of our Conference including Troup, Spalding, Butts, Meriwether, Pike, and Jasper Counties
Spalding County had more than 250 homes with major damage or completely destroyed, and almost 2,000 with minor damage.
Just two months later, on March 26, a tornado struck in the West Point and Pine Mountain areas of the South West District. There, 35 homes were destroyed and 32 were left with major damage. Because the March 26 tornado did not receive FEMA funding there are additional unmet needs in this area.
Our dedicated North Georgia Conference ERT (Early Response Teams) responded to the call to assist in the early response after both of these storms. Local United Methodist churches in those areas sprang into action. Additionally, the North Georgia Conference has worked closely in coordination with GEMA, Georgia VOAD (Volunteers Active in Disaster), and county EMA directors, as well as the Salvation Army and the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).
“The reason UMCOR is often said to be 'early in response and last to leave' is that we are a connectional church, a connection putting faith in action helping our neighbors in need,” said Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Scott Parrish.
In April, the North Georgia Conference launched our first long-term recovery effort in these areas, with UMCOR as our guide. (Read about that here.)
This generous grant from UMCOR will go toward support for three key hired staff to serve as case workers and construction coordinators over the next two years.
North Georgia Conference disaster response already has a list of 25 homeowners needing assistance. Mission teams will be needed from across the Conference to assist with carpentry, sheetrock and flooring, painting, and similar tasks that bring costs down so we are able to help more tornado survivors in need.
“Often the homeowners we are assisting are the elderly with limited funding or insurance who are continuing to live in their storm-damaged home,” explained Scott.
Our Annual Conference is steadfast in our commitment to fulfilling the mission of our church and grateful to steward the resources entrusted to us by the generous acts of solidarity of our worldwide United Methodist church. In other words, "We'll help!"
Visit https://www.ngumc.org/longtermrecovery for more information on how you can help as long-term recovery work continues.