As devastating wildfires remain in the national headlines, there are various opportunities for United Methodists to help both firefighters serving their communities and families most affected by the raging blazes.
In an update about the 2018 wildfires burning in California, the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church offered some helpful ideas on how concerned persons may help. With some adaptations, they are presented below.
One of the first things you can do is pray for all of those whose lives are impacted by the fire. Be sure to include firefighters, medical staff, relief workers, and others serving the community.
Please also pray for all survivors of previous fires who may experience added stress and anxiety when seeing and hearing the news reports.
Cash donations are best. Financial contributions are the most flexible and manageable way to help with response and recovery. Consider donating to the disaster relief fund managed by the United Methodist Annual Conference serving the area. For example, California-Nevada Annual Conference Disaster Fund is at https://www.cnumc.org/disasterresponse.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) helps with disaster relief across the globe, including those affected by wildfires. Donations may be made to UMCOR Disaster Response United States. When you make a donation, 100% of the money you give goes to the program you specify.
Another way to donate is by providing the needed items for the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s relief supply kits. UMCOR provides cleaning, hygiene, and school kits to help people recover after tragedy, including wildfires. Get together with your church, friends or family and assemble a kit. Instructions are at https://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies.
Refrain from making material donations unless specifically requested. Unsolicited donations of items such as clothing, furniture, and toys require space, organization and management that can take human and financial resources away from survivor recovery.
If you feel called to give of your time and talent, please do so through an organized group. Unrequested and/or unsupervised volunteers can be more of a challenge than a help!
Consult the Michigan Conference Disaster Response Coordinators for counsel. You might also consider joining in with a community partner such as the American Red Cross. The California-Nevada Annual Conference also suggests checking in with California Volunteers https://californiavolunteers.ca.gov/current-disasters/ for places to help.
Remember, volunteers will be needed long after the flames are extinguished. Cleanup and rebuilding can be a long process for which mission teams are often welcome.
There is no time like the present to prepare for the future! Take note of training events offered by The Michigan Conference. Explore ways your church might be able to serve your community as a gathering place in a time of disaster. Plan for yourself, your family, and your church to be safe and to serve your neighbors if a wildfire should ever threaten your community.
Tips are adapted from a publication by Sonja Edd-Bennett, director of disaster response for the California-Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church.