4,000-plus volunteers deploy to help after tornadoes


A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose Volunteering through Moore-First UMC, Sharon Johnson cleans tornado debris at a home in late May.

Numbers track just how extensive is the disaster recovery work since six tornadoes struck the state in late May.

On Nov. 19, updated numbers snagged attention in a meeting of the Oklahoma UM Disaster Response committee. Its members are from both annual conferences.

Richard Norman of the Oklahoma Conference reported to the committee. Among his statistics:

  • 160 teams, from 28 states and Canada, deployed through the Volunteer Reception Center operating at Moore-First UMC (June 5-Nov. 18).
  • More than 30 of those teams were from Oklahoma Conference churches.
  • Total volunteers tracked by the center at Moore-First: 4,303 (May 24-Oct. 26).
  • Total hours of service by those volunteers: 27,969 (May 24-Oct. 26).
  • Over two years, UM churches will be asked to host thousands of volunteers as the work continues.

A total of 3,371 work projects were abandoned, Rev. Norman said, after a plethora of groups and people eager to help left the disaster area in July.

But United Methodists commit for the long term. Oklahoma UMs have taken leadership in construction management and volunteer coordination, Norman explained, as well as disaster case management.

He reported 2,455 of those incomplete projects now have been confirmed as completed. Another 444 also are complete, awaiting final approval from homeowners.

Rev. Norman chairs the Oklahoma VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters), a collaboration of charity, civic, and government entities. In the Oklahoma Conference’s Office of Mission, he is disaster response coordinator and Volunteers in Mission associate director.

Volunteer Reception Centers also are open at St. Paul’s UMC in Shawnee and, in El Reno, at the American Red Cross Building and Wesley UMC.

The central phone number for all is 1-866-477-7276.

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