By Melissa Hinnen - November 19, 2013
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with affected conferences to assist with immediate relief needs after tornadoes left widespread damage on Sunday, November 17.
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee were all affected by severe weather, but the most widespread damage occurred in the town of Washington, 140 miles southwest of Chicago, where a powerful EF-4 tornado destroyed or damaged an estimated 250-500 homes, according to news reports. Initial reports indicate that at least eight people died, and hundreds were injured.
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, who leads the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, wrote in an online message, “Pray not only for those affected, but those neighbors who roll up their sleeves and help rebuild their communities.”
UMCOR US Disaster Response executive Greg Forrester reached out to the affected conferences and offered prayers and solidarity. According to Forrester, “UMCOR is prepared to support all affected conferences with funding, training, relief supplies, and expertise once assessments are made, and needs are determined.”
Illinois Great Rivers communicator Paul Black said that it is too soon to receive volunteers, “When we know a timeline when volunteers are able to get into the areas and where volunteers are to report, we will notify everyone of that information.”
Forrester urged people who want to volunteer in areas impacted by tornadoes to connect with their jurisdictional Volunteer in Mission (VIM) coordinator to determine the appropriate time, “Volunteers are not yet needed in the area and should not self-deploy. Emergency services and first responders need first to complete their work.”
People wanting to help right now are asked to assemble relief kits, especially school kits and health kits. Kits can be shipped to any of the relief-supply depots in the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network.
Relief efforts in the communities affected by the tornados will be funded from the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s US Disaster Response advance (#901670). One hundred percent of gifts designated for USDR Tornadoes 2013 will support the response in Illinois and other areas where the tornados hit.