Record-breaking floods, tornadoes prompt UCC aid — and more help is needed
The United Church of Christ’s Disaster Ministries unit is extending a helping hand to survivors of record-breaking floods and tornadoes that devastated communities from Missouri to Kentucky and West Virginia within the past eight months.
In late July, flash flooding in the St. Louis area broke a century-old rainfall record, said Lesli Remaly, minister for disaster response and recovery with the UCC’s Global H.O.P.E. team. Thousands of households have been affected.
“Then that same record storm that inundated central and eastern Missouri traveled on to batter eastern Kentucky and West Virginia,” sweeping away homes in areas that had never before flooded, said the Rev. Greg Denk, UCC Indiana-Kentucky Conference disaster coordinator. He said 3,400 homeowners in 13 Kentucky counties already have reported damaged property.
Disaster Ministries already was responding to tornado disasters that destroyed or heavily damaged more than 600 homes in western Kentucky on Dec. 11, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022.
Cleanup and long-term recovery
In response to the July 2022 flood disasters, Disaster Ministries has fast-tracked initial funding to assist cleanup and to begin to lay the groundwork for long-term recovery. This includes $3,000 Solidarity Grants to:
- Appalachia Service Project to transport and maintain shower trailers for use by volunteers coming into flood-affected areas to muck, gut and restore damaged homes.
- Christian Appalachian Project for counseling services for those traumatized by the floods. Typically, a $3,000 grant would serve 11 individuals for one year.
- Union UCC in Berea, Ky., which is prioritizing meeting immediate and short-term needs of Berea College student members and their families along with mission partners addressing poverty and health in Martin, Hindman and other towns.
Remaly has reached out to the UCC’s Missouri Mid-South Conference, which includes the flood-affected areas, to offer help with immediate and long-term needs. Immanuel UCC in Louisville, Ky., contributed cleanup buckets for flood survivors.
“The St. Louis community is hurting and there are a lot of needs,” Remaly said. She added that, fortunately, damage to UCC churches was minimal. “Flooding left mud in one church’s fellowship hall and a couple of classrooms,” she said, “and a few clergy sustained flood damage to their homes.”
Rebuilding after tornadoes
Grants also are helping tornado-affected Kentucky households secure safe, sanitary housing, whether by rebuild, repair or relocation. Seed grants of $5,000 each, funded by the UCC’s Severe Storms 2021 Appeal, have gone to:
- Bowling Green/Warren County Long-Term Recovery Group for coordinated management of the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial recovery of tornado survivors.
- Community Foundation of West Kentucky toward increased capacity in Fulton and Hickman counties through the purchase of laptop computers, printer/copiers, ink and copy paper and securing safe storage space.
In addition, Disaster Ministries granted $20,000 to the Indiana-Kentucky Conference Disaster Preparedness and Response Ministry Team, led by Denk, to subsidize volunteer work crews and construction material for tornado recovery in western Kentucky.
‘Will take years’
UCC Partner in Service Jaye Herrick has relocated from her last assignment in Dayton, Ohio, to Caldwell County, Ky., to provide project management for the rebuilding teams there, working with volunteer groups from across the country.
“Recovery from these severe storms will take years,” Denk said. “Long-term funding will be necessary as the United Church of Christ is a leader in helping communities organize for recovery, repair and rebuild.”
“Volunteers will also be needed for many years,” Remaly said. “That means churches organizing teams to help, bringing hope and healing to devastated communities.”
Ways to help
Remaly suggested these ways for churches and members to help:
- Download “How You Can Help Disaster Survivors.” It tells where to donate, how to make cleanup kits, how to join the ecumenical “Willing to Respond” network, and more.
- Volunteer on a disaster work team. People can click here to find out how.
- Click here to give online. A drop-down menu there lets donors designate gifts through the Emergency USA and International Emergency Funds.
- Mail a check, noted “disaster,” to United Church of Christ, P.O. Box 71957, Cleveland, OH 44194.
People needing more information can send an email to Lesli Remaly or use this directory to contact the Conference Disaster Coordinator in their area.
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