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UMCOR allocates $46 million for disaster recovery
Photo by the Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, UMNS

A demolished building barely stands in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Puerto Rico was already reeling from Irma when Maria made landfall Sept. 20, 2017, as a Category 5 hurricane, bringing with it 175 mile-per-hour winds and 40 inches of rain.

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Special Sundays Offering brings hope and recovery to devastated areas.

A new round of grants from the United Methodist Committee on Relief — including $16.8 million to the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico — will build upon the denomination’s response to Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey.

Approved April 13 by UMCOR’s board of directors, the more than $46 million in grants also will further assist recovery efforts related to last year’s Northern California fires and the historic 2016 flooding in Louisiana.

Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, was the worst storm to hit the island in 80 years, and its aftermath created a humanitarian crisis.

During a Facebook Live event announcing the grants, Thomas Kemper, top executive of UMCOR, and New York Area Bishop Thomas Bickerton, UMCOR’s president, talked briefly about their visit to Puerto Rico in December. Kemper also is the top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR’s parent agency.

Bishop Hector Ortiz speaks to members of the Methodist Outreach Brigade, who distributed food and water in the central area of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck the island in September of 2017. Photo by the Rev. Gustavo Vasquez, UMNS.

Both were impressed with the resiliency of the Puerto Rican people and their determination to do what had to be done, even when no help was available. “We saw Puerto Rican citizens with shovels, shoveling out major highways where mudslides had covered the road,” Bickerton recalled.

The church, he said, must keep the recovery of Puerto Rico “on the front page” and continue to ask “for the resilient determined efforts of United Methodists across the globe.”

The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico also received $1 million to repair 39 churches destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Maria. 

A third UMCOR grant of $373,513 for Puerto Rico will allow for three additional positions for the church’s disaster recovery staff. A construction manager for residential repair, a communications professional, and a monitoring and evaluation specialist will help enhance the delivery of service to both survivors and communities.

After Puerto Rico, the next largest grant went to the denomination’s Florida Conference. The $8 million will support the second phase of the conference’s Hurricane Irma recovery programs through 2020 and help increase the necessary staffing for ministries across a broad part of Florida. The conference previously received an initial $1 million grant for Irma relief work.

In the continued response to Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Conference will receive a $4.8 million grant and the Rio Texas Conference will receive a $5 million grant.

The previous recipient of a $1 million-plus grant, the Texas Conference will use its new grant to assist 280 households “with safe, secure and sanitary housing.”

Louisiana suffered a one-two punch over the last couple of years. Historic storms caused historic flooding in August 2016 in the southern part of the state. A year later, rains from Hurricane Harvey caused extensive flooding in several parishes in the southeast. Grants of $1.06 million and $1.58 million will help the denomination’s Louisiana Conference further assist those affected.

The California-Nevada Conference will use its $1.3 million grant to support recovery from the 2017 wildfires that devastated parts of northern California in 2017.

Linda Bloom, assistant news editor, UMNS based in New York.

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God’s love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR’s “costs of doing business.” This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.

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