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Changes to UMCOR relief supply kits empower communities

In the wake of 2017's epic hurricane season, members of The United Methodist Church gave their time and money to assemble relief supply kits. Because of the generous hearts of United Methodists, thousands of cleaning buckets were transported within the United States and Puerto Rico to reach devastated communities.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is well-known for its relief supply kits. Almost since its formation, UMCOR has shipped material resources to people in need all over the world. Now, UMCOR is seeing some major changes to its relief supply process.

Last year, UMCOR leadership recognized that shipping relief supplies abroad can do more harm than good. Though shipped with good intent, materials bought and packaged in the U.S. displace potential local purchases that can support local economies. With this in mind, on Dec. 31, 2017, UMCOR determined to cease international shipment of relief supply kits. 

The Revs. Saul Montiel (left) and John Fanestil hand out health kits from UMCOR at "El Bordo," along the Tijuana River in Tijuana, Mexico. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE.

UMCOR now distributes only the most-requested relief supply kits assembled in the United States to places in the U.S. and its territories where these items are most needed. 

With this pivotal change, UMCOR can meet the needs of those who request relief supplies more efficiently. By awarding grants to UMCOR partners abroad, UMCOR can provide more support to local economies in need through awarded grants. This allows com\munities to use grant money to buy local supplies and use local workers, as they respond to disasters in their area.

"It's more sustainable that way and will help to stimulate their economy," said Amy Fuselier, director for UMCOR Sager Brown and Depot West. "It's our way to provide them with a hand up instead of a hand down. In doing so, UMCOR empowers local people to become responsible for themselves and their community after a disaster." 

In an effort to be good stewards of the denomination's money they have updated the list which offers more flexibility to the donr in purchasing supplies for the kits.

As part of the recent changes, UMCOR has discontinued several kits. "We used to have seven kits, but now we have three, which are the hygiene kit, school kit and cleaning kit," said Fuselier. "The remainder of discontinued kits that have been made… will be shipped out to UMCOR field offices. Nothing will be wasted."

UMCOR field office program manager, Whitney Stovall, is managing the shipments and distribution. Once the kits arrive at UMCOR field offices, they will be distributed according to the needs of the local population.

During this period of transition, UMCOR will accept any kits that were assembled using the old content lists.

Bella Simonetti, communications specialist for Global Ministries

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR Sunday calls United Methodists to share the goodness of life with those who hurt. Your gifts to UMCOR Sunday lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere. The special offering underwrites UMCOR's "costs of doing business." This helps UMCOR to keep the promise that 100 percent of any gift to a specific UMCOR project will go toward that project, not administrative costs.

When you give generously on UMCOR Sunday, you make a difference in the lives of people who hurt. Give now.

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