UMCOR Awards $4.6 Million Grant to Alabama-West Florida Conference to Support Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts

published 4/30/2019
(UMCOR) - United Methodists in Alabama-West Florida are undertaking large-scale recovery programs for those affected by Hurricane Michael with assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
A $4.6 million UMCOR grant for the Alabama-West Florida Conference will help launch and fund the first two years of a phased four-year recovery program in response to Hurricane Michael. 
Scientists at NOAA's National Hurricane Center recently determined that Hurricane Michael had an intensity of 160 mph when it made landfall at the Florida Panhandle last October and upgraded it to a Category 5 hurricane. The last hurricane of such intensity at landfall was Hurricane Andrew, which struck South Florida and Louisiana in 1992.
Since the hurricane struck, AWFC has continued to triage and collect data to determine the unmet needs in the affected areas.  Grant funds will enable them to strategically review the list of families who have been denied Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance and begin outreach to those survivors.
The conference aims to provide at least 375 households with disaster case management services and connect them with vital goods and services to help them achieve their individualized recovery goals.
“In the midst of major devastation, the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Conference was a beacon hope to local communities as its churches served as resource centers for those impacted by the tremendous storm,” said Roland Fernandes, executive director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “UMCOR is proud to support their ongoing efforts to bring hope and recovery to those impacted by Hurricane Michael.”
“Since the time Hurricane Michael made landfall the Alabama-West Florida Conference has served those in need along the panhandle of Florida,” said Bishop David Graves. “As we have been saying for months, this will be a long-term effort to which our conference is committed to for years to come. We are grateful to UMCOR for recognizing the extensive need along the coast.”
In December 2018, the conference received a $628,768 grant from UMCOR to allow for three volunteer coordinator sites to be established, support staff to manage these sites, construction costs for those we help and assessments for the next grant.
Hurricane Michael swept across a narrow band of the Florida panhandle on Oct. 12, leaving total destruction in some areas. Six of the 12 counties that are FEMA-eligible are in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, which has received additional support from UMCOR and the United Methodist connection. Alabama-West Florida also will receive a separate $180,000 UMCOR grant for church repair.

About the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian aid and development agency of The United Methodist Church. UMCOR is working in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States and its territories. Our mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering—whether caused by war, conflict or natural disaster— with open hearts and minds to all people. UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community's ability to recover on its own. UMCOR works through programs that address hunger, poverty, sustainable agriculture, international and domestic emergencies, refugee and immigrant concerns, global health issues, and transitional development. Learn more at and

A Response to the April 2019 Judicial Council Ruling

published 4/26/2019
On April 26, 2019, the Judicial Council ruled that parts of the Traditional Plan passed at the 2019 General Conference were constitutional (other parts were previously ruled unconstitutional). The Judicial Council also ruled the exit strategy passed at General Conference was constitutional and places many of the decisions around this topic into the hands of conference trustees and the annual conference. The new legislation will take effect January 1, 2020. General Conference is the top legislation body for all matters related to the United Methodist Church and is the only body that can speak for the United Methodist Church. The next General Conference session will be May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, MN. 

-The Alabama West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church

Click here for a full summary

UMCOR Assists With 2018 Hurricane Recovery

published 4/25/2019

(Linda Bloom with UMNS) - United Methodists in North Carolina and Alabama-West Florida are undertaking large-scale recovery programs for those affected by U.S. hurricanes in 2018, with assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The $4.6 million grant for the Alabama-West Florida Conference will help launch and fund the first two years of a phased four-year recovery program in response to Hurricane Michael. 

Greg Ellis, UMCOR project manager for the grant, called it “by far the biggest program in recent memory that this conference has done.”

Nearly $6.4 million has been allocated to the North Carolina Conference, where residents were left reeling last September from slow-moving wind and rain generated by Hurricane Florence. The storm’s impact affected nearly the entire state, including areas still recovering from Hurricane Matthew two years earlier.

Both grants were part of some $27.6 million in funds authorized April 11 by UMCOR’s board of directors for U.S. and international disaster response, sustainable development and global migration projects, and support for denominational hospitals and health boards through the Global Health unit.

While the Alabama-West Florida Conference has suffered through significant tornados and floods in the past, “they do have some new players that hadn’t managed at that level,” said Catherine G. Earl, UMCOR’s director of disaster response and U.S. partner relations. But they are leaning into those responsibilities “extraordinarily well,” she added.

“In disaster ministry, the conferences have to go from zero to 60 very quickly,” Earl explained. Along with resources, UMCOR provides guidance and flexibility from its own disaster recovery experience, so “we’re able to provide that sense of comfort to them.” 

Hurricane Michael swept across a narrow band of the Florida panhandle on Oct. 12, leaving total destruction in some areas. Six of the 12 counties that are FEMA-eligible are in the Alabama-West Florida Conference, which has received additional support from the North Alabama and Florida conferences. Alabama-West Florida also will receive a separate $180,000 UMCOR grant for church repair.

In North Carolina, Ellis said, United Methodists are working in partnership with FEMA through a relatively new STEP (Sanitary, Temporary, Essential Power) program. FEMA assists with purchase of materials and then volunteers, like United Methodists or other religious groups, pick up the materials and perform the actual construction work.

“It really stretches their budgets and it also is a great benefit to the survivor because that money doesn’t count against the household’s allowances,” Ellis explained.

Earl agreed the program is an added benefit. “The intention is to fast-track families and get them back into a livable situation,” she said.

The STEP program setup allows for “sheltering in place” by providing running water, electricity, bedrooms for sleeping “and a way to secure the envelope so no further damage happens” while the house awaits further renovations.

The North Carolina Conference’s project goal is to help at least 1,020 families impacted by Hurricane Florence or Hurricane Matthew in 2016 into full recovery. An estimated 720 will be assisted through the STEP program and 300 through UMCOR funds, Ellis said. 

The Mississippi Conference also will receive $2.4 million from UMCOR to assist with recovery from multiple disasters in 2018-19, along with $854,660 to create a management team to undergird its UMCOR recovery projects. Since 2002, Mississippi has had 25 FEMA-recognized major disasters.

Other major grants for U.S. disasters approved by UMCOR directors included $2.3 million to the South Carolina Conference for Hurricane Florence recovery; $1.1 million, Winding Rivers United Methodist Church in Juneau County, Wisconsin, long-term storm recovery; $1 million, West Virginia Conference, long-term flood recovery; 

U.S. grants also included $1 million for the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, church repair from Hurricane Maria; $720,000, South Georgia Conference; Hurricane Michael recovery; $700,000, Mennonite Disaster Services, Hurricane Harvey recovery; $100,000, New York Conference, Puerto Rico volunteer coordination partnership and $70,000, Arkansas Conference, Marion County tornado.

A $250,000 international disaster grant will go to International Orthodox Christian Charities to provide shelter support for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians in Jordan. United Methodists in the North Katanga and Central Congo areas also will receive $100,000 and $93,907, respectively for disaster management.

UMCOR directors approved 11 grants to address sustainable development needs, including WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) projects in Ecuador, Guatemala and Liberia. 

The historic Cambine Mission agriculture station in Mozambique will receive nearly $200,000 to scale up production, market access and farmer field school programming. SILOE, a development organization of the United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire, has two grants — one for $97,083 for a WASH project and another, for $200,693, for a cassava-growing project.

Beyond Borders, an UMCOR partner in Haiti, will receive $100,000 to increase food production and family security in three villages on Lagonav. A $90,188 grant to the South Congo Zambia Episcopal Area will establish a community agricultural program and farmer field school in the Lubumbashi region. The Tanzania Provisional Conference will receive nearly $98,000 for a village savings and loan project.

The Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action, a longtime UMCOR partner in India, also will receive two sustainable development grants — $141,594 to address the issue of farmer suicide and recovery and $300,000 to undergird its core programming.

As part of The UMCOR emphasis on global migration, Church World Service will receive nearly $140,000 to assist Syrian and other refugees in Europe who are stopped at the border of Bosnia. A $150,000 grant to the UMCOR Sudan office will help build a permanent classroom structure for children in Al Nimir Refugee Camp in East Darfur.

Twelve Global Health grants were approved for United Methodist-related hospitals and health boards. The largest grant of $1.06 million will go to the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Health Board to enhance access to and the quality of health care in that African country, with a $625,425 grant to Mary Johnston Hospital in the Philippines to rehabilitate the operating and delivery suites.

During the meeting, Dr. Graciela Salvador-Davila was introduced as the interim director of Global Health programs, succeeding Dr. Olusimbo Ige, who had served as executive director of Global Health since 2015. 

Bloom is the assistant news editor for United Methodist News Service and is based in New York.

Potential Palm Sunday Severe Weather

published 4/12/2019

For most of our conference, there is potential for severe weather on Palm Sunday. It is impossible to know the exact timing or areas of concern, but please be aware of this possibility. 

As a clergy person or a leader in your church, your priority for your congregation's safety should outweigh the desire to insist a worship service must happen. Please stay tuned to your local news on Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. Do not depend on weather sirens. Make sure your church has a NOAA weather radio with proper battery backup and the ability to frequently monitor conditions. 

Now is an appropriate time to review your church emergency plan. There are several resources on our conference Website that could be helpful to you

We hope the threat for severe weather will diminish and ask that each church in the Alabama-West Florida Conference take a few minutes to devise a plan for Palm Sunday. We are grateful for your ministry. 

Lee County Aftermath: How You Can Help

published 4/10/2019
(Rev. Lisa Pierce) - We appreciate your love, support, and prayers over the past five weeks. It has been a whirlwind, as you can imagine. Below you will find an update on the progress being made in Lee County. 

We appreciate so very much the United Methodist connection coming together. Several churches in our area have been faithfully serving throughout Lee County including both Beauregard and Smiths Station. Auburn UMC, Cornerstone Church, Embrace Church, and FUMC Opelika have been sending a steady stream of groups and individuals. Trinity UMC of Opelika hosted Eight Days of Hope and spent a month with chainsaws and heavy debris removal equipment. Churches in Phenix City and Smiths Station, like Mt. Zion UMC, staged for volunteer groups and prepared lunches. Pierce Chapel and Wesley Chapel UMC served as a staging ground for supplies and meetings. Recently, St. James UMC (Montgomery) travelled to help with more chain saw and debris removal. There are others who have helped that we are not even tracking because the outpouring of help and support has been so overwhelming. So, thank you!

Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM) hosted a father and son team from Michigan, an individual volunteer from Indiana, and currently has a team of 16 from Tuscaloosa running chainsaw teams. Every Friday and Saturday at our office at Pepperell UMC, we set up as a gathering center for groups desiring to serve from the local community. 

ARM has established an additional team dedicated to the long-term recovery response. Our team consists of Rev. Katrina Love who is from Beauregard and serves as a case manager, Ms. Allison Porter who is a Young Life leader in Beauregard and also serves as a case manager, Mr. Joseph Farris who is our construction coordinator, and Mr. Andrew Baird who is our volunteer reception coordinator. They have hit the ground running hosting volunteers, continuing clean up efforts, and coordinating for the long-term recovery process. I am grateful for their leadership. 

ARM is part of the long-term recovery effort called MEND. Rev. Laura Eason, a United Methodist deacon, and the chaplain for East Alabama Medical Center, is the main coordinator for MEND. ARM is leading the team responsible for planning and coordinating the rebuilding, reconstruction, and repair of homes destroyed and damaged in Lee County. We are meeting with several home building groups, AU Building Science/Architecture, and other home repair groups. ARM is also being asked coordinate volunteer opportunities throughout the community.

Here are ways your church can help:
1) Schedule to bring a summer work team: Our summer is still very structured and we can host teams that arrive on Sunday and depart Friday morning for a cost of $195/person which covers all of your expenses. If this schedule does not work, we have some other options. You can see these options at or email Andrew Baird at

2) For those within the Opelika/Auburn area: There are several teams to help with long term recovery, aka MEND. This includes grief counseling, legal support, financial counseling, home repair and more. Click here for an overview of these teams and a form to fill out to be part of MEND. Please consider getting this out to your churches and see if individuals would like to join these groups.

3) ARM continues sending groups out on Fridays and Saturdays and will do that through April except Easter weekend. Groups can also serve at the Distribution Warehouse. If you would like to serve contact or sign up on this form

Thank you for the many ways you have blessed this community. We need your help, love and prayers. 

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