Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Volunteers helping wildfire victims


Richard Norman and Christy Smith, standing, and Velma Carriaga, seated.

When wildfires ignited in four Oklahoma counties this summer, United Methodists quickly offered church facilities as shelters and resource centers. The flames have been doused, but UMs continue to give aid, confirmed Richard Norman.

The Conference VIM coordinator of disaster response knows recovery requires a long-term effort.

"The story of the 603 families who lost their homes and virtually every possession they had is so very important for our churches to hear," Rev. Norman said.

Now United Methodists are collaborating with state agencies and other faith entities in the Recovery Phase. Specifically, disaster case management is the UM focus.

In Creek County, fire destroyed the homes of 357 families. A group of UMs are providing disaster case management for the Creek County Long Term Recovery Committee. Special training in mid-September helped equip them for the task.

At Mannford-First UMC, 19 people attended the training led by Christy Smith, a national consultant for UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), reported Norman. Fourteen of them then signed up for certification as disaster case managers. The Mannford church is providing space for their work.

Velma Carriaga of Collinsville-First UMC was named supervisor. Pam Rowley of Mannford Church and Rose Unterschuetz, of Tulsa-New Haven UMC, are her assistants.

Norman said, "The national staff of UMCOR is very excited about OKVIM Disaster Response taking this step. Few annual conference Disaster Ministries in our denomination serve as disaster case management lead agencies.

"Oklahoma UMs are laying foundational groundwork for this very vital piece of Disaster Ministry, which gives families hope in potentially recovering from such a devastating event in their lives."

UMCOR’s disaster case management is acclaimed for its effectiveness.

The federal government chose the agency to lead that area of recovery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Oklahoma UMs also continue to extend help in the other counties affected by wildfires, Norman noted.

The Conference participates fully in Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (Oklahoma VOAD), an ongoing, coordinated effort to provide the most effective response when disasters strike.



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