Flood Bucket Challenge unites seminary in disaster response

When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017 many concerned students at the Boston University School of Theology felt they had to help the survivors there in some meaningful way. But how?

Burdened with schoolwork, short on time and funds, many students—including some from Puerto Rico—approached the Rev. Charlene Zuill, spiritual life coordinator, looking for ideas. She turned to the United Methodist Committee on Relief and found a solution that united students in a creative, community-building mission endeavor.

Your gifts on UMCOR Sunday helps support lay the foundation for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to share God's love with communities everywhere.

Zuill challenged students involved in the school's community life program to raise $10,000 for cleaning supplies and flood buckets (now known as cleaning kits) to aid Hurricane Maria survivors. The result was the school-wide Flood Bucket Challenge, which took place during the fall semester of 2017.

When Zuill asked for someone to lead the effort, Tory Dillard, a United Methodist and first-year M.Div. student from Erin, Tennessee, stepped forward. 

The initially small, but committed, team of student leaders grew to 10. They worked on creating posters and other media, making announcements at weekly student gatherings, collecting and accounting for donations, purchasing and assembling buckets, and other tasks. 

Faculty members and many of the seminary's diverse student organizations joined in, challenging one another to match donations for flood buckets. The associate dean of Students and Community Life allowed organizations to contribute to the cause from their school-allocated funds. 

"When Maria came (following two August hurricanes, Harvey and Irma) everyone said 'Oh my God! What can we do?'" recalled Zuill. "We wanted to give our community a feeling that they could do something. A lot of times students are focused on their studies and might feel disconnected from events happening beyond campus. They don't have much money, and some feel frustrated. This gave them a chance to respond in community together and do something meaningful."   

"We bought materials to fill about 40 buckets initially," said Zuill. "I loaded them into my car and made several trips to a United Methodist church in our area to deliver them."  

The campaign elevated the concern and cooperation of students, faculty and administrators, and it exceeded Zuill's initial goal by raising $65,000, which in 2017 would have been enough to purchase and fill 1,000 flood buckets at $65 each. Dillard and his team wrote thank-you notes to each donor. 

That success led to another this fall. In response to more destructive hurricanes, Dillard, now the school's student coordinator of Community Life, led others in launching another campaign to support UMCOR's ongoing disaster response efforts. "UMCOR is out there working to help people," he said, "and we just wanted to be a part of that again."

John W. Coleman, director of communications, EPA Conference and a writer 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.