by chris schutz
In the chaos that follows a fire, flood, tornado, or other disaster, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out who most needs help and how best to deliver it, said Christy Tate Smith, a disaster response consultant for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Smith, of Memphis, Tenn., was at the United Methodist Ministry Center in Oklahoma City on May 3-5 to train about a dozen people in case management before the next crisis.
Churches are eager to help when disaster hits, Smith said. Yet she urged caution.
In one instance, a church offered to help a woman who was seen hauling belongings from a damaged house. It turned out the house was her rental property. Volunteers "were helping someone that wanted their business repaired," Smith said.
Case managers find out about deserving clients in a disaster area, she said.
UMCOR’s goal is to make sure "the most fragile are going to be connected" to help.
Workers seek to help them achieve realistic recovery.
UMCOR is not charity, Smith emphasized.
"It is empowerment of survivors to take care of their own decisions."
Drew Shahan came for the training. He works in the Oklahoma Conference’s Disaster Response Ministry and is based at Moore-First.
He said the job of a case manager involves "a good bit of OJT" (on-the-job training).
Shahan recalled several churches "adopting" an Oklahoma family whose home was badly damaged in a disaster. They gave money for new wallboard and other materials and helped pay for a Thanksgiving dinner.
Case managers are required to respect the privacy of families, so he could not share specifics.
Smith, a United Methodist for 40 years, said she joined UMCOR in 2003. After retiring from journalism, she wasn’t sure what to do, so she prayed, "God, if there’s anything you need me to do …"
When you pray that, she said, a door doesn’t just open. "Sometimes the windows and the doors fly off." Since then, she’s traveled the country, training people in UMCOR’s highly respected case management processes.
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