United Church of Christ

Puerto Rico - UCC Response - Hurricanes Maria and Irma






Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery
Volunteer Mission Groups Needed

Work teams of up to 15 volunteers each may sign up now to help with hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico. Beginning June 1, 2018, groups will serve for one-week periods. We need groups to sign up now! Click here for more information and to register your work team.


Category 5 Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to hit Puerto Rico.  It made landfall there on September 20, 2017. It was directly responsible for more than 60 deaths - many more when factoring in the crippling of health care, power, water supply and other systems for months after the storm had passed.  Maria followed Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Caribbean hurricane on record, which grazed Puerto Rico on September 6.

Maria caused Puerto Rico up to $95 billion in damage. It wiped out 80 percent of crop values, a blow to the island’s economy that also left its 3.4 million U.S. citizen residents food insecure. Maria knocked out all electricity on the entire island, disrupted water supply, crippled communications systems, damaged roads and littered the island with debris. Six months after the storm, power had yet to be restored to tens of thousands.

"We are supporting our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and call on all our churches to continue to pray and give financially for what will be a long road ahead," said Zach Wolgemuth, UCC Disaster Ministries Executive.

The UCC's Response


  • In April, UCC Disaster Ministries deployed Partners in Service Doug and Judy Moore to Puerto Rico for several months. They are working with partner Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico (IEUPR) to develop a Social Action and Emergency Action ministry, which is laying the ground for volunteer work teams and building long-term disaster resilience and preparedness.
  • UCC Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth and the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, Team Leader, Humanitarian & Development Ministries, spent several days in early March 2018 meeting with partners on the island, with long-term recovery planning being the main purpose of the trip.
  • Wolgemuth is working directly with leadership of the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico (IEUPR) to develop a recovery plan/roadmap that will help guide the joint IEUPR-UCC response.
  • UCC Disaster Ministries has identified a long-term volunteer couple committed to serving several months to move the collaborative work along, acting as the liaison between the UCC and the IEUPR Disaster Recovery Coordinator. Disaster Ministries is planning to provide financial support to the IEUPR to hire that coordinator and purchase a vehicle to be used for construction and recovery.
  • Beginning June 1, UCC Disaster Ministries will deploy disaster recovery volunteer mission groups for one-week periods in Puerto Rico. Teams may sign up now to receive an email notification when registration opens in April.


  • UCC Ministries' initial investment of $155,000 in the new IEUPR Social Action and Emergency Action ministry provides for hiring coordinator(s) to oversee the joint effort; purchase of a vehicle dedicated to disaster recovery work; construction materials, tools and supplies, and a generator to restore power at the camp and for future back-up generation.
  • $12,500 to the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico for replacement of computers and classroom furniture, maintenance of the library's digital catalog, restoration of the data and telecommunications systems, and repairs to the roofing of student housing
  • $17,000 for CWS Hygiene Kits and other material aid.
  • $3,000 for The Alliance for Sustainable Resources Management.  The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria exposed the vulnerability of Puerto Rico and its inability to adopt climate change adaptation measures in time in the town of Toa Baja. The grant will address the issues of the electrical system collapse, water shortage, communication system collapse and the need for debris removal. The community will be participating in training on the subject of energy before beginning the assembly process of the teams.
  • $10,000 for the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico and Ryder Hospital as an IEUPR project. When Hurricane Maria slammed into Southeastern Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, Ryder Hospital lost equipment and basic medical supplies. The grant will be used to provide basic medical supplies and or in-kind support to families.
  • $10,000 for the Disciples Church in Puerto Rico. ICDCPR will be conducting an assessment with pastors and lay leaders in approximately 5 to 10 towns. Along with the evaluation, this partner will be handling first aid kits, electric generator, drinking water, water filters, non-perishable food, battery powered radio, batteries and other in-kind donation according to needs they will be facing.


  • $5,000 for shipping of more than $49,000 in medical furnishings and supplies to Ryder Memorial Hospital. The goods were supplied by International Aid.
  • Partner Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico is getting 500 solar lights for 500 people, thanks to a successful fundraiser of East Church Congregational, Milton, Mass.
  • UCC executives have been doing critical work leveraging relationships and resources with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and through the VOAD movement (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) to assist Puerto Rican partners on the ground.  For example, UCC Disaster Ministries was able to secure an industrial generator for Ryder Hospital's Alzheimer unit which saved the hospital several hundred thousand dollars.
  • Shipped to Puerto Rico: 5,000 Hygiene Kits, 500 tarps and 1,550 water filters (550 from UCC Disaster Ministries and 1,000 in a joint shipment with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Church World Service. The Sawyer 0.1 micron water filters each produces one million gallons of clean drinking water over its lifetime. They alleviate the need for people to boil water, saving shipping of tons of water and ending the distribution logistics headaches involved in transporting large amounts of water. And they reduce the pile-up of plastic water bottles in landfills.

On the U.S. Mainland:

  • $6,000 to the UCC Pennsylvania Southeast Conference for a program of assistance to people displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria. Hundreds of people - some of them with few or no resources and many unmet needs - have made their way to Philadelphia, which has the second largest population on the mainland of people of Puerto Rican descent. Penn Southeast Conference Disaster Coordinator Karl Jones has been deployed to lead the UCC's response in Pennsylvania.


Resources provided by FEMA for people in Puerto Rico

Global Ministries' Update on the Caribbean

October webinar with Disciples General Pastor Miguel A. Morales Castro, Puerto Rico

Ways to Help

Read More: UCC Disaster Ministries Updates


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