Dec 18, 2021

Conference to seek more volunteers to help restore homes

We are pleased to announce that the United Methodist Committee on Relief of Global Ministries (UMCOR) has approved your grant request of USD ($)417,737 on behalf of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference for Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Isaias Recovery (Project Restoration).

Those welcome words brought an Advent blessing last week to EPAUMC’s Director of Connectional Ministries, the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, who labored for months on the UMCOR grant application. But it was also a blessing to flood-ravaged communities in dire need of the aptly named “Project Restoration.”

The immediate result is a search to find and hire a Director of Disaster Response to lead in recruiting and managing volunteers, among many other tasks, and a Case Manager to help families still waiting to return to their damaged homes or be safely relocated.

Conference, Hopewell UMC teams work in Downingtown

EPA’s volunteer Disaster Response Coordinator Robert Simcox has been organizing and overseeing the labors of Early Response Teams several Saturdays a month in Downingtown since October. Meanwhile, Hopewell UMC has member teams doing major home restoration work there as well, in partnership with local groups. And the church has raised and contributed over $60,000 plus supplies to the town’s recovery needs.

Hopewell UMC volunteers, adults and youth, work on restoring a displaced family’s Downingtown home.

Homes there and in Coatesville and Mont Clare were inundated by floods unleashed by remnants of Hurricane Ida in early September. Calvary UMC in Ambler and Otterbein UMC in Mont Clare were also hard-hit by flooding. Otterbein’s members are hoping rehabilitation of their church can begin in January after their electricity is finally restored. They are eager to return to their upstairs sanctuary for worship.

Much more volunteer help will be needed in all of these communities and also in Eastwick a long-neglected urban community in Southwest Philadelphia near the Airport. That’s where Hurricane Isaias in August 2020 brought unprecedented flooding from overflowing creeks into hundreds of homes, many without flood insurance, wreaking devastation and disrupting many lives.  

Eastwick still reeling from 2020’s Hurrricane Isaias damage

Hurricane Isaias’ impact continues to be felt, and many homes have been condemned. Relocation assistance is much-needed.  But despite the severe extent of the damages, it was not deemed sufficient to warrant provision of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) funds, according to Eastwick UMC’s pastor the Rev. Tracy Duncan.

The church, although not damaged, has been working alongside its neighbors and trying to help them for the past year. Duncan laments that families remain in homes that are still waiting to be fully restored, as the onset of winter brings heating problems.

Recovery from all the flooding will take lots of time, lots of funds and lots of help. But the new UMCOR funds, in addition to ongoing donations from caring members and churches, may enable the conference to meet its ambitious goal to restore at least 55 homes and to help displaced families find assistance through case management, an UMCOR specialty.

“I rejoice in UMCOR’s commitment to restoring communities and specifically for UMCOR’s partnership with the Eastern PA Conference in Hurricane Ida and Hurricane Isaias Recovery,” said Taylor-Storm, who credits Bishop John Schol, Simcox, Conference Volunteers in Mission Coordinator the Rev. Russell Atkinson, UMCOR staff and others for much help in shaping the vision and pursuing the grant. 

“We look forward to continuing the work of recovery that has already begun.  May God continue to bless this effort as we move forward.”