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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

    news article

    Help restore hope for survivors of natural disasters

    January 9, 2020 / By Mike Block, UNY Director of Missional Engagement

    We have all heard of various natural disasters which have occurred across the country such as floods, tornados, and other severe storms.  What we often don’t hear about is how survivors struggle to recover during the following days, weeks and often months after the disaster.  We don’t think of people who have no power, no heat, no water, even though it is during winter months.  We don’t think of those who can’t live in their home due to mold, or because the house is off its foundation.  Instead we watch the news, see the destruction, and then sit down to eat dinner or go about our business the next day.

    To bring this closer to home, in our own Conference, in the Utica area, there was a massive flood event on Halloween which damaged some 800+ homes.  People are still suffering, cleaning, repairing, replacing furnaces a full two months later.  Most of us didn’t hear about this flood, or have already forgotten about it.

    But we can still help.  Our Conference has a program to send people almost immediately into disaster areas to quickly, effectively, and appropriately provide a caring, Christian presence to assist survivors in recovery.  It is called ERT.  It stands for Early Response Team.  Early Responders are trained by UMCOR during an 8 hour session with all the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How answers to the typical questions willing volunteers are apt to ask when they feel called to provide help.  What do we do? We listen to survivors, we hold trembling hands, we hand out bottles of water, and listen some more.  We give hugs; we assure that people care; and then we wash walls, remove wet carpet, wet wallboard, shovel mud, carry out ruined appliances, cover holes in roofs, and make homes secure again. But we don’t do repairs. That happens later with rebuilding teams who are often the very same people on the Early Response Team.

    So where can you receive more information and training to become an Early Responder? Attend one of two Basic Early Response training events.

    Feb. 8 at Broad St. UMC, Norwich , NY. which is northeast of Binghamton and east of Cortland.  Registration information is at


    Feb. 29 at N. Chatham UMC, N. Chatham, NY near Albany with registration information at

    By becoming part of an Early Response Team, you can help restore hope for people who lose so much in the aftermath of a natural disaster. 

    With more than 144,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 91 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."