Piles of broken tree limbs surround Tony Arnold of Carnegie UMC, helping clean up after a late January ice storm in southwestern Oklahoma. He was among several volunteers during a Lawton District disaster response workday for New Light UMC, a Korean-language congregation in Lawton.
Pastor Kip Wright of Walters applauded the grassroots disaster response when an ice storm paralyzed much of southwestern Oklahoma in late January. But he also spoke about the value of advance disaster planning, and he noted that coordinated debris cleanup by United Methodist disaster response teams is continuing in that region.
Clergy and lay volunteers for Lawton District workdays are recruited respectively by Ron King, pastor at Carnegie and Mountain View, and Richard Ryan, a layman at Frederick.
Each church in the district has been asked to identify three volunteers to serve on work teams, Rev. King explained. "We have quite a list. After a disaster, when we are asked to help, I start calling neighbor churches and work out from there."
New Light UMC sought help after the January ice damaged many trees at the current meeting site for that Korean congregation in Lawton. King initiated a call for aid, and people from four churches responded. To express thanks, a New Light member who is a restaurateur fed the work team at day’s end.
King said another volunteer team, led by Ryan, served several days in hard-hit Marlow. The ice’s aftermath forced Marlow schools to close for eight days, according to Laura Dysart, a member of Marlow UMC.
Lawton, Clinton, and Woodward Districts jointly deploy two Disaster Early Response Team trailers. King said one of the trailers was used at Marlow.
Marlow and Duncan "were just clobbered," Rev. Wright said, but Walters escaped much of the damaging ice and subsequent power failures.
Cotton Electric Cooperative is headquartered in Walters. After the storm, Wright saw people preparing and delivering lunches and bags of cookies to the utility company’s offices as well as to the crews in the field.
"People were taking it upon themselves to offer what support they could, knowing their friends and neighbors were out there, working around the clock to restore power and clear roads," Wright said. Others were checking on rural residents and taking them gas heaters.
He said Walters UMC was prepared to shelter people if needed, in cooperation with the American Red Cross, as the church has done in past weather crises. He encouraged advance disaster planning by any church.
"It’s not a matter of if, but when," he said.
Related story>> How can we help?
Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission:
800-231-4166 or 405-530-2029
Richard Norman, Rnorman@okumc.org, 405-530-2032
On the Web: www.okumcministries.org/VIM/Disaster_Response.htm