Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

One year later … Mission director assesses UM aid as 2013 tornado recovery continues


This aerial view shows a tornado-damaged Moore neighborhood on May 31, 2013.Welcome changes are visible there today, with new and repaired homes going up. UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

  • 3,258 families get help
  • 30,000 volunteer hours
  • Valuable partnerships

By JEREMY BASSET, Director, Office of Mission

The first anniversary of the May 2013 tornadoes in central Oklahoma gives us an opportunity to reflect on the recovery work that has begun and what still lies ahead.

Twelve months ago saw an immediate and significant response from aid agencies around the nation. More than 50 organizations responded to the rescue, recovery, and rebuild tasks.

Today, nine agencies remain involved in the construction and volunteer efforts; United Methodists count among those continuing to serve.

Government officials have stated that full recovery will take at least two years.

Donations of $1.25 million

The Oklahoma Conference (OKUMC) and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) have worked together on recovery efforts. They report receiving a total of $1,246,353 in direct donations over the past year.

A joint committee was established to authorize expenditures of this money. That committee has representatives from both conferences, under the leadership of Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

This total represents $1,028,523 from churches, $171,265 from individuals, $35,131 from businesses, and $11,434 from church organizations such as youth and women’s groups. The amount does not include contributions made through UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

As of April 29, almost $100,000 had been spent, with the balance to be spent as outlined in this story.

The value of collaboration

Oklahoma United Methodists are part of a highly unusual cooperative effort by five major religious and secular aid agencies. Formed because of the May 2013 storm disasters, this collaboration is called the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project.

The Project unites, but is not limited to, the work of the American Red Cross, the Oklahoma United Methodist Church, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

The Project oversees case management, volunteer management, and construction project management for the repair and rebuild needs spawned by the storms in central Oklahoma.

The OKUMC and OIMC have received very generous grants from the Red Cross and the United Way of Central Oklahoma to fund our overhead costs in this collaboration.

• We received a two-year Red Cross grant of $1,168,285 for the case-management work. The process of case management seeks to connect various sources of help for affected families and individuals in a one-on-one approach. The United Methodist Church is recognized nationally for exceptional success in this field.

• The Red Cross also awarded us a grant of $1,864,970 for volunteer and construction project management. Rebuilding is most helpful when deployment of the work is organized. When volunteers can go where they are most needed, their skills and efforts have the greatest impact for good. The UM Volunteers In Mission ministry is highly regarded for such work.

• United Way gave us a grant of $766,000 for purchases of tools and construction supplies and for warehousing.

These financial resources in hand are managed through the OKUMC Treasurer’s Office and subject to fiscal accountability and auditing processes. The grantors also receive audited reports on the use of their monies.

Tracking the numbers

As of April 29, through our shared work in case management, we have helped meet needs in 3,258 cases for families/individuals impacted by the storms. Of that total, 1,589 cases were completed, 1,107 were open, and 562 were pending as of that date.

In the area of volunteer management, we report approximately 2,300 volunteers have deployed through three volunteer reception centers. Those volunteers have given in excess of 30,000 volunteer hours to the recovery work. The centers are in Moore, El Reno, and Shawnee, and are staffed by United Methodist coordinators.

These statistics are from Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross reports.

Adding these numbers to those reported by six other agencies involved in the volunteer management, the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project reported a total of 5,850 volunteers gave more than 125,000 hours of service, as of April 29.

Independentsector.org places the 2013 value of a volunteer hour in Oklahoma at $20.88. This means volunteers have contributed some $2.6 million in labor toward the recovery effort as of that date.

Needs still emerging

The $1.25 million in direct donations through OKUMC/OIMC is designated to be spent only to meet the needs arising from those May 2013 storms.

The bulk of those donations can be used in the "unmet needs" phase of recovery because of the significant funding support from the sources named above and the wonderful collaborative spirit of Oklahomans.

"Unmet needs" typically emerge well after the initial relief work in a disaster. Thus United Methodists can maximize our direct donations for those needs when other funds have been exhausted.

Unmet needs are especially challenging for those impacted by the storms who are uninsured and underinsured.

• For an underinsured family, the coverage they have may not provide enough money to put on the roof after other home repairs are made.

• A rural family may have insured the home but not the barns that house their animals.

• A contractor may walk off a job with payment but without completing home repairs.

In early assessments, FEMA estimated that unmet needs resulting from this disaster could total $81 million.

Keeping our promise

We are one year into this recovery. Thus, we anticipate we soon will receive requests for the OKUMC/OIMC funds for unmet needs.

Those requests will come through Long-Term Recovery Committees formed in five central Oklahoma communities. Each committee has guidance from Oklahoma VOAD and includes governmental, civic, and faith-based members of the community.

Much of our United Methodist disaster response ministry to this point has focused on repairing homes.

We are now entering the rebuilding stage. We plan to apply soon for a large grant from UMCOR to undergird that work.

Our two UM conferences are fortunate that the united efforts of so many aid groups have allowed us to reserve the largest part of our direct donations for needs of families and individuals in the latter phase of recovery.

Given the scope of this disaster, we believe our available funds will go a long way toward fulfilling The United Methodist Church’s promise to extend help until recovery is complete when disasters strike.

Oklahoma United Methodists are committed to keeping that promise.


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