Disaster Response update

Disaster Response update

December 15, 2021

By. Rev. Catie Newman, Disaster Response Coordinator

As we watch the pictures of the damage from the 38 tornados that tore through Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois on December 10th and 11th, many of us in Iowa know firsthand how it feels to see the church roof ripped off or our belongings scattered and wet across the yard. Like many of you, I confess that my first instinct is to get in the car and help. HOWEVER, we are being asked to NOT COME at the current time.

The areas that have been affected are not ready for general volunteers from out of state. There are no hotel rooms, and the storm survivors need them. There are no Sunday school rooms available. They are all being used to store items that can be stored or are necessary for recovery. The truth is that today, we will just be in the way. 
We have offered and are making plans to move our shower trailers into areas that will need them for residents and volunteers.
There are also OTHER ways to help TODAY.
  • PRAYING: Pray for those affected, those in a shelter, those grieving, and those who are responding.  Prayer is how we unleash God's power for one another.   
  • DONATING: At this time, financial gifts are the very best way to support the relief efforts. You can give directly to affected Conferences or through UMCOR-USA Advance Special #901670. United Methoidst Committee on Relief (UMCOR) donations can be added along with your monthly remittance to the Iowa Annual Conference, and the Conference will send them in. ALL Conferences that are affected have asked us NOT to collect clothing or other items, and there is no place to handle or store them. Later there may be items that we can collect for specific outreach efforts. 
  • REACHING OUT. If you know someone affected by a disaster, reach out, call, send a note or text.  Knowing that others care and are praying makes a HUGE difference. It's the best of who we are as a connectional church.
  • MAKING CLEAN-UP BUCKETS and HYGIENE KITS: We have already delivered several thousand across Iowa and have plans to deliver more. Bring completed Clean-up Buckets to the 2022 Iowa Annual Conference. We will have one of our Disaster Response trailers next to the Midwest Missions trailer in the parking lot. Go to or for directions on how to make Clean-up Buckets and Hygiene Kits.
  • VOLUNTEERING: Give your time and energy by volunteering at Midwest Missions to help pack and load trucks and shipments of things needed and asked for. Contact Midwest Missions at to make these arrangements
  • GET TRAINED AND GET A TEAM TOGETHER so that when the time is right, you can go and help.    A team of 4-8 persons is ideal and we will bring the training to you at your church. Contact Catie Newman to schedule ERT or UMVIM Training at 712-899-4067.
  • HELPING: This spring and summer, teams will have many opportunities to help. As those details are available, we will share them.  OR  Go to the conference web page for any conference affected and they will have details about when and what they need from us.
Answers to Most Often Asked Questions
  • I would like to help. I can cook and am very handy, when can I go? We prefer teams. Finding work for individuals is difficult. However, contact the site you would like to work with and ask them to use your unique gifts. PLEASE DO NOT simply show up. It can cause problems.
  • Can we donate other items?​ NO! ONLY Clean-Up Buckets, Hygiene Kits, and financial gifts are requested. I know that other groups are collecting different items, but there is no place to take them and no one to handle them. In the future, we will be able to help in more ways.
  • Do Clean-Up Buckets and Hygiene Kits have to be complete?YES! If they are packed in a bucket. Extra items can be boxed and marked "extra Items."  
  • Where do I find the list of what goes into a kit? Go to "UMCOR KITS" or or on the Iowa Annual Conference Website here.
  • Can we send the extra kit items that we have? Yes! But they must be packed in boxes and clearly marked "Miscellaneous Extra Hygiene Kit Items" (or bucket items). You can also send these to Ingathering, clearly marked.
  • Do we send money for shipping? NO! All financial donations can be sent directly to the conference center for Iowa Disaster Response, Special Advance #223.
  • How old do you have to be to volunteer? You need to be 16 years old to take ERT Training and 18 years old to serve on a team. Sixteen-year-olds require a parent or guardian. 
  •  What is the difference between ERT and UMVIM?
    • ERT - Stands for Early Response Training and is a cooperative effort between UMCOR and Volunteers in Mission (VIM)
      • ERT Teams is a more hands-on, immediate response.
        • What to do, what not to do
        • What to expect when you get to a recovery site
        • How to "be" with survivors
        • Focused more on immediate response in the first days after the disaster.  
      • ERT Teams are self-sufficient
        • Sleep on floors
        • Cook their meals
        • Arrive in the first days after a disaster
        • Help in whatever ways that they can
      • ERT Teams may help recover possessions
        • Clean out homes
        • Move survivors into new housing
        • Tarp roofs
        • Cook meals for the community
        • Do various other tasks
      • ERT Training is great for volunteers who come later 
        • Helps with a shared language, expectations, and how to deal with the clean-up we will be asked to do. 
    • UMVIM - stands for United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and is a program of Global Ministries and is organized by jurisdiction.
      • UMVIM Leader Training is for the LEADER of the team
        • Learn to lead a team
        • Focuses more on long-term team response
      • Serving on UMVIM teams depends on
        • Host needs
        • Team makeup
        • Safety requirements (many teams have youth and adults working together)
  • How do I register for a training? For ERT or UMVIM Training, email Catie Newman at [email protected]  or call her at 712-899-4067.