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UMCOR grants to boost hurricane relief efforts

The United Methodist response to the devastating 2017 hurricane season is getting a boost through new grants from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The Board of Global Ministries and UMCOR approved more than $7 million in grants for hurricane and other disaster-relief work and $1.86 million for global health projects.

UMCOR already had received some $15 million from donors in recent months to respond to U.S. disasters.

Thomas Kemper, top executive for Global Ministries, announced that Luis Morales, disaster coordinator for the South Georgia Conference, was traveling to Puerto Rico as an UMCOR consultant. "They (Puerto Rican Methodists) already have distribution centers in 20 local churches and are trying to stand with the people in Puerto Rico," he said.

Damage from Hurrican Irma is visible in this neighborhood in Goodland, Fla. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

New York Area Bishop Thomas Bickerton, UMCOR's president, said that by addressing the needs in Puerto Rico, The United Methodist Church has a way "to extend its hand in the midst of an area where poverty and lack of infrastructure provide an opportunity for response."

Puerto Rico's hurricane recovery is estimated to cost up to $95 billion, Bickerton noted. That, he told UMNS, is "a signal to faith-based organizations that we need all hands on deck."

It's important to view the United Methodist response in Puerto Rico as a long-term program, Kemper pointed out. "I really hope, in the future, we can buy more locally instead of shipping," he said. "We have a whole network (in Puerto Rico), which will be here for the long haul."

Several of the larger grants approved during the Global Ministries meeting relate to Hurricane Harvey, which dumped 40 to 52 inches of rain and caused catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas and part of Louisiana, and Hurricane Irma.

Receiving grants for Hurricane Matthew Phase 2 recovery were the North Carolina Conference, $1.25 million, and the Virginia Conference, $250,000. Louisiana received $720,000 for its continued response to the widespread flooding in August 2016 and the West Virginia Conference received $750,000 for long-term recovery from June 2016 flooding.

Other grants included $350,000 to Mennonite Disaster Services to assist the Oglala Sioux Tribe of Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, after storms and flooding in May 2015. An international grant of $423,899 went to the Mines Advisory Group, which is clearing landmines in Iraq so that displaced populations can return to their homes.

Most of the $1.86 million in grants from the Global Health unit of the Board of Global Ministries was directed to United Methodist health boards in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Sierra Leone Conference also received $613,209 for an Imagine No Malaria Project and Global Refuge, an organization working with South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, was given $118,852 for emergency medication and supplies.

Linda Bloom, assistant news editor, UMNS
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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