This is from Rev. Richard Norman, from the Office of Mission. Please read carefully – it is wonderful to help, but there are kinds of help that hurt more than they help. Read below for what you can do:
Dear Oklahoma United Methodists:
As I write this, people in central Oklahoma are experiencing tornadoes on the ground. Turbulent weather patterns continue that began several days ago, and multiple communities already have been heavily damaged.
It will take time for emergency officials to assess the damages and for us to learn how we all can most effectively help meet needs. I know you are seeing and hearing news reports about the devastation and want to assist. Oklahomans are known for generosity and a can-do spirit in times of crisis.
When both the United Methodist Committee on Relief and an annual conference ask for funds, United Methodists who want to help in a disaster might be uncertain where to send donations.
Conferences may set up their own funds to help with the immediate needs of housing, food, shelter and transportation. Conference fundraising is intended for raising money within the conference to meet immediate needs.
Giving to UMCOR through The Advance, the United Methodist official giving channel, ensures that 100 hundred percent of each donation goes directly to the need specified. UMCOR’s administrative costs are covered through a separate fund supported by One Great Hour of Sharing.
Right now I ask you to take the following actions for our neighbors in need:
• PRAY. What you are feeling in your heart can be best expressed through prayer to the One who can truly meet the needs that we are all feeling.
• Consider donating money to help those directly affected. Click on the donate button on this email to donate online.
• Money gifts also can be sent through your local church or directly to the Conference Treasurer’s Office, 1501 NW 24th, Oklahoma City OK, 73106-3635. Write “2013 May Tornado Relief” on the memo line of your check. Please DO NOT collect and donate clothing and/or any other supplies at this time. Financial contributions are the most effective way to help us provide survivors with what they really need.
• If specific unmet needs or calls for emergency supplies are reported, those will be shared with you through updates by the Volunteers In Mission and the Communications offices.
• Please prepare your church membership for possible VIM mission service later.
• If you live within an affected community, reach out beyond your church’s membership.
• Some people may be hurting silently, without family or church connections, reluctant to ask for help.
Individuals and groups of volunteers are urged: Do not self-deploy. Best practices in times of crises call for a collaborative response, so people who can help are directed to where that help and those skills are most needed and will be most effective. Sign up to help through VIM by contacting 405-530-2070, LFoster@okumc.org; or 405-530-2070, or RNorman@okumc.org, 405-530-2032. You will be notified as opportunities become available later, after emergency responders’ work concludes.
Insight into the disaster response process:
Beyond immediate news coverage of emergency operations after an Oklahoma disaster, many processes of assistance begin. Among first, vital steps is a daily conference call among a group of faith-based, non-profit, and governmental partners in disaster response. This group is called the Oklahoma VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). I represent Oklahoma United Methodists in this group; I coordinate our United Methodist VIM disaster response and also chair the VOAD group. Among other partners in the VOAD collaboration are the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and Southern Baptists.
Through the sharing in this group, we attain much information about a disaster, and many unmet needs of disaster victims are addressed. Already under way and ongoing throughout this week, state and federal agencies — also in the VOAD partnership — will join locally-based emergency managers in conducting thorough damage assessments. The Oklahoma VOAD will look toward opening Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) in various locations, to connect resources and assistance to storm victims. Later, the Oklahoma VOAD will assist the affected communities in forming long-term recovery committees.
DIAL 211 for assistance
For any Oklahomans seeking non-emergency disaster or health/human services information, call 211. Services are available 24 hours a day. If you know people directly impacted by these wildfires, help them to make the call.
To donate to the Oklahoma tornado disaster response,