Collection of stories about UCC churches and disasters

Since Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hit, UCC News and UCC Disaster Updates have carried many stories of how United Church of Christ congregations have been impacted and how they are helping in these and other disasters. Here is a collection of those stories so far.

Iowa community coming together for long-term flood recovery

July 13, 2019

The damage inflicted by severe flooding and tornadoes across the United States this spring can be quantified in billions of dollars. It also can be described by the ache in one mom’s heart to get her four daughters back into the only home they’ve ever known.

Disaster grant empowers Santurce, Puerto Rico’s recovery

In Puerto Rico’s long recovery from Hurricane Maria, a congregation serving homeless people, undocumented immigrants, young mothers and elderly folks may soon become a center of outreach to an entire section of the island, with help, in part, from United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries.

Ohio, Kansas UCC churches help their communities after tornadoes

Ohio and Kansas UCC churches are reaching out to help their communities following tornadoes and other powerful storms. 

Line dance classes raise funds for UCC Disaster Ministries

Millie Oliphant of Vernon, Conn., recently translated her passion for line dancing into a fundraiser for United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries.  Her eight-week class helped participants chase away the “dead-of-winter” blues and raised $600 for the greater good in the process.

California churches extend support to wildfire survivors

Amidst the worst wildfires in California history, the people of several United Church of Christ faith communities are reaching out with love to neighbors and to strangers, offering solace and support. Some who are helping are themselves recovering after the Carr fire just a few months ago.

Love line, check-ins and prayer partners buoy work teams

A “love line,’ check-in partners on site, prayer partners back home, daily devotions and debriefing – these are key elements in the support system for volunteer disaster recovery work teams deployed by St. James United Church of Christ in Havertown, Pa.

Roofs are UCC Disaster Ministries volunteers’ priority in Puerto Rico

August 27, 2018

A contingent of almost a dozen UCC volunteers — teenager to retirees — went to Puerto Rico the first week of August to help get a number of homes under roof. They were one of the first UCC volunteer teams donating time and talents to the people of the island nation in a recovery mission that will span years. And UCC Disaster Ministries is in it for the long haul.

Harvey anniversary finds UCC Disaster Ministries hard at work in Texas

August 23, 2018

As the Texas Gulf Coast prepares to mark the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, one of the most costly storms in U.S. history, the UCC Disaster Ministries’ team and partners in the area are preparing for a busy fall season of rebuilding work.

Scott Smiley reflects on volunteering on a disaster recovery work team

June 29, 2018

‘If you are more fortunate than others, it is better that you should build a longer table, than a taller fence.’ To me, the simplicity and eloquence of this apparently anonymous quote sums up my experience serving in Florida with UCC Disaster Ministries on a hurricane recovery volunteer work team.” – Commentary by Scott Smiley, member of the Evangelical Reformed UCC in Frederick, Md.

Volunteers show solidarity as they help Puerto Rico rebuild

June 29, 2018

A hug of transformation and solidarity. That’s how the Rev. Edward Rivera Santiago, General Pastor of the Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Puerto Rico (IEUPR), describes an ecumenical collaboration to repair as many homes as possible that were damaged by Hurricane Maria last September. UCC Disaster Ministries is recruiting groups of volunteers to repair roofs, do light carpentry and paint interior ceilings and walls, and has contributed more than $250,000 to the recovery effort to date.

Hurricane survivor to work team: You guys need to be CLONED!

June 29, 2018

Marlene was among homeowners affected when Hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017 devastated Volusia County on Florida’s east coast, destroying dozens of homes and leaving thousands in disrepair. Her recovery came April 8-14 at the hands of a 12-member mission team from Evangelical Reformed UCC in Frederick, Md., Christ Reformed UCC in Middletown, Md., and St. Paul’s UCC in Fleetwood, Pa.

In Port Arthur, volunteers’ work day starts with a song

June 29, 2018

Imagine a disaster recovery work site where the construction supervisor sings to volunteers at the start of their workday, before confirming their assignments and accompanying them through the day. That’s what volunteers are finding in Port Arthur, Texas, where UCC Disaster Ministries and partner South East Texas Community Development Corporation (SET CDC) are restoring 17 low-income rental units that Hurricane Harvey flooded with two feet of water last August.

When disaster recovery help is needed, “why not go now?” Wisconsin church asks

May 31, 2018 – “Why not go now?” That’s what members of Grace Congregational United Church of Christ in Two Rivers, Wis., say when disaster strikes and there’s a need for hands-on recovery help. Their “go now” spirit has infused 22 mission trips, the most recent in March to UCC Disaster Ministries’ long-term recovery work site in Port Arthur, Texas

Volunteers at UCC’s new Harvey recovery work site share skills, hugs, prayers

March 14, 2018 – Serving on a disaster recovery work team involves much more than painting or putting up drywall, as important as that can be. It’s also very much about building relationships. That is evident at the United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries’ new worksite in Port Arthur, Texas, which is now receiving volunteers from across the country.

UCC Harvey recovery work site begins receiving volunteers

March 13, 2018 – Several congregations get a “shout out” in this story about the first mission teams to volunteer at UCC Disaster Ministries’ Port Arthur, Texas, Hurricane Harvey recovery site.

Commentary: What we learned serving on a disaster recovery work team

February 9, 2018 – Six members of St. Paul’s UCC in St. Louis, Mo., spent a week in a Harvey-battered neighborhood of Houston late last year replacing a homeowner’s flood-soaked drywall and retrofitting the bathroom to make it handicapped accessible. Pastor Mike Roth shares some of the group’s thought-provoking learnings.

UCC comes together in Philly to help Puerto Rican hurricane evacuees

Wisconsin UCC church, community raise money for Maria-battered Puerto Rico

October 13, 2017 – The small community of Platteville, Wis., rallied around its local UCC congregation to help raise more than $3,300 for hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico. The congregation turned an evening of planned family friendly fellowship into a fundraiser for the people of Puerto Rico. And as the news reported out of the U.S. commonwealth became more devastating, several members of the wider community joined in to help.

Post Irma, church uses what it has to help its neighbors

September 27, 2017 – As UCC Disaster Ministries communicates with its conferences and congregations in ministry to hurricane survivors in Texas, Florida and other states, it encounters stories of how they are using what they have to help their neighbors. Here is a story out of Florida post-Irma of how Miami Shores Community Church UCC made what it had available to meet many neighbors’ needs.

Wisconsin church to donate fall festival proceeds to hurricane recovery

September 22, 2017 – The members of Windsor United Church of Christ are changing up how best to use the money raised from its annual Fall Festival. Typically, those dollars are used toward the church’s expenses — helping pay bills and offsetting the other ministry costs. But this year, after a series of hurricanes rocked the southern United States and the Caribbean, the small Wisconsin congregation wants to share the dollars it collects this weekend, earmarking the money for relief and recovery in an effort to create a just world for all.

Early assessment in Florida finds damage to two UCC churches

September 14, 2017 – Following one of the strongest storms in U.S. history, many Floridians are getting back to their homes and neighborhoods, coming face-to-face with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Because of destruction, flooding and loss of power to millions statewide, leaders of the United Church of Christ are just beginning to learn about the storm’s impact on the UCC community.

Corpus Christi congregation aids disaster distribution on Texas coast

September 14, 2017 – A United Church of Christ congregation in Corpus Christi is supplying a disaster distribution center in Port Aransas with much needed supplies in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, supported by the assistance of the wider church.

Cypress TX congregation returns home after Harvey

September 12, 2017 – A Category 4 hurricane in Texas, followed by flooding that brought raging water halfway up their front doors, didn’t wash out a small congregation 25 miles northwest of Houston for long. Christ United UCC in Cypress returned to their fellowship hall for worship on Sunday. “If you look past the water, you see God’s hands at work doing marvelous things in people’s hearts – wonderful,” Christ United Pastor the Rev. Jeffrey Willey told his congregation on Sept. 10.

Florida family, fleeing Irma, finds temporary church home in Ohio

September 12, 2017 – Melinda Webster followed the news of Hurricane Irma closely as the storm approached the Southern Florida shores. Faced with the decision to evacuate, Webster and her 97-year-old mother left Tallahassee and drove north to Ohio to avoid Irma’s path of destruction. Webster and her mother are staying with family in the small town of Tiffin, Ohio, for the week. And at least for one Sunday, they were welcomed guests at Trinity UCC.

Disaster Ministries staff visit Texas churches post-Harvey

September 05, 2017 – Churches across Texas and beyond are rallying to get Harvey survivors what they need most right now — cash, cleanup buckets, hygiene kits, and gift cards. UCC National and Conference staff are in Houston this week to meet UCC pastors and plan for long-term recovery. UCC Disaster Ministries has ordered 200 cleanup buckets for St. Paul UCC in Corpus Christi to distribute in Port Aransas and a $2,000 solidarity grant for its food pantry.

UCC congregations, organizations nationwide help after Harvey

September 05, 2017 – They may be separated from the people in Texas and Louisiana who have been hit hard by Harvey by thousands of miles, but members of the wider United Church of Christ want those suffering to know that they stand with them, and will do all they can to help them recover. From New York to Kansas City and beyond, churches are collecting donations and putting together Church World Service (CWS) cleanup buckets.

Holly Hill, Fla., congregation has volunteer housing for Matthew/Irma worksite

Union Congregational UCC Church in Holly Hill, Fla., converted its social hall into housing for volunteer work teams of up to 24 volunteers at a time who come to help Daytona Beach area householders repair and rebuild after damage sustained in Hurricane Matthew (October 2016). Many suffered additional damage when Hurricane Irma came through (September 2017).