The United Methodist response to the massive central Indiana flooding in early June has been phenomenal as hundreds of congregations have assembled and/or delivered an estimated 1,400 flood buckets and the numbers increase.
Flood waters inundated 37 central Indiana counties the weekend of June 6-8, displacing more than 25,000 residents and claiming thousands of acres of corn, wheat and soybeans.
In immediate flood relief efforts, several congregations quickly organized to assist survivors from one of the worst floods in central Indiana history.
At press time, Heidi Player of the South Indiana Conference treasurer's office said more than $60,000 was received from South Indiana United Methodist churches for flood relief. Funds continue to come in to assist flood survivors in central Indiana. Brent Williams, treasurer of the North Indiana Conference, told Together that he has received and sent to the South Indiana Conference more than $5,600 for central Indiana flood relief.
During the first Sunday of flooding, Mohawk United Methodist Church in the Indianapolis East District, north of Greenfield, put flood bucket clean-up kits together, blessed them in worship and transported them to Grace UMC in Franklin to deliver them to aid agencies.
United Methodists of the greater Bloomington area assisted survivors with flood buckets distributed to residents in flooded areas. On June 12 volunteers delivered 200 flood buckets to Worthington, Ind. The buckets were supplied by the Midwest Mission Distribution Center, a depository near Springfield, Ill., where UM congregations donate relief supplies for distribution.
In mid-June, the Bloomington District office received a phone call from State Senator Vi Simpson of Bloomington regarding an urgent need for flood buckets in Brown County.
Thanks to the generous donations of our United Methodist churches as well as residents in this area, Bloomington District volunteers assembled 94 flood buckets and received eight buckets already assembled from another congregation. The last week of June, another 37 volunteers assembled more than 120 flood buckets that were transported to the Red Cross relief center in Terre Haute.
First UMC in Vincennes made flood buckets and health kits last summer to be stored at a distribution center to be used as needed. Not knowing if the flood waters would hit Vincennes, First UMC delivered cases of bottled water and Gatorade to the local high school where 400 National Guard members set up camp to help with flood relief.
According to Pastor Perry Richards, the West Street UMC in Shelbyville assisted flooded residents in that area with contributions for flood buckets. Between 200 and 300 homes were damaged or destroyed by flood waters from the Flat Rock River. In Shelbyville, the Salvation Army provided lunch and dinner to between 200 and 400 flood survivors each day during the first week of flooding, plus provided shelter for 55 survivors.
During the flooding, Dan Sinkhorn, pastor of First UMC in Sullivan, coordinated the collection of supplies there.
Centenary UMC in Terre Haute checked on the residents of Bethesda Gardens retirement/nursing home which was flooded and evacuated. Centenary also assisted the American Red Cross at Terre Haute North High School where evacuated residents were first taken to be kept safe from the flooding.
Spencer UMC worked very closely with the Red Cross center at the elementary school. The church's food pantry and mission store were opened for food and clothing.
Mt. Auburn UMC in Greenwood coordinated its efforts with other Christian groups to assist the flood survivors living in Friendly Village Mobile Home Park, providing bottled water, food, toiletries and cleaning supplies.
The Columbus District Disaster Relief Coordinator Keith Chanley asked flood survivors with needs to contact the Columbus District Office. During the first days of flooding, the district office ordered 100 flood buckets to be delivered to Asbury UMC in Columbus for distribution.
Asbury UMC was officially designated the disaster center for this area by United Methodist Committee On Relief. This means they housed and fed volunteers. According to Asbury Pastor Al Styron, Asbury's relief efforts in Columbus continue to progress. He said Columbus has multiple needs and our community is coming together with an intentional ecumenical effort to minister to many who are displaced and hurting.
First UMC in Columbus accepted clothing, books and toys to be donated to the flood survivor families.
All six United Methodist churches of Columbus united in the relief effort. Asbury, First, Petersville, Sandy Hook, East Columbus and Mt. Olive churches meet together at Asbury UMC to review combined needs and to discuss their shared outreach ministry. The churches expect several work crews to sleep at Asbury as they mobilize to meet the needs of combined United Methodist families and many others.
"We are grateful for the flood buckets and look forward to hundreds more. Every day of work uncovers more damage and our work crews are stretched but committed. We are in great need of work crews outside of Columbus to come join us now and for months ahead. We are not weary of the work, but we are growing weary in the work. Thanks, in advance, to all who will come to the rescue," said Styron.
South Indiana Conference Disaster Response Coordinators Bob Babcock and David Powell, both of Danville UMC, toured flooded areas south of Indianapolis and visited with responders and flood survivors in Columbus three days after the storms. They found Edinburg dealing with both flooding and tornado relief. Edinburg is now receiving volunteers to assist residents. A Red Cross staging area has been set-up at Edinburg's Eastside Elementary School.
The American Red Cross at Greenwood distributed flood buckets that came from First UMC in Noblesville and Smith Valley UMC in Greenwood.
Members of the Centenary UMC in Lebanon opened their church June 10-20 to be a drop-off point for Lebanon area residents to deliver flood buckets and supplies which Centenary members delivered to relief center churches on June 21.
Children of the Castleton UMC were featured on WTHR-TV on June 25 shopping for cleaning supplies and assembling flood buckets.
At the request of Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner in early June, the United Methodist Committee on Relief immediately sent $10,000 for initial flood disaster relief of residents.
Likewise, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Area sent a $10,000 check to Coyner for flood relief in Indiana. Leaders of the Mississippi and Louisiana conferences indicated how much they appreciated the support from Indiana for their flooding and disaster response issues in the past. The Louisiana Conference offered support and work teams.
David Cumbest, pastor of Heritage UMC in D'Ibervile, Miss., and Seashore District Disaster Coordinator, contacted Bob Babcock, South Indiana Conference Disaster Relief coordinator, to let him know when Indiana is set up to receive work teams and what else we may need. Cumbest said, "We have some well-trained volunteers ready to help."
The latest sizeable contribution came from the Dakotas Conference in the amount of $10,500 for flood relief.
Volunteer opportunities continue to be available through Franklin College at the Dietz Center on the east edge of campus. Anyone willing to volunteer should register at the center. Volunteers need to bring sturdy shoes, gloves, drinking water, shovels and be willing to work not only in houses but in the donation centers.
FEMA and the American Red Cross also are located here. Groups of 10 or more are asked to call 317-444-1978 or 317-738-8807. Organizers request volunteers not bring children. For further information, log on to www.franklincollege.edu.
Jenni Walker, resource administrator of the South Indiana Conference, says she is receiving between 25 and 30 e-mails a day and numerous phone calls about volunteering for flood recovery efforts in South Indiana. Walker can be reached at 812-893-1760 or by e-mail at email@example.com. She is working with numerous church and civic organization including the American Red Cross to place volunteers where they are needed in flood recovery efforts across central Indiana.
Babcock informed Together that he has arranged for UMCOR staff to come to Indiana for two two-day training sessions at two locations. Each session is identical in content.
All sessions begin at 9 a.m. and run to 5 p.m. each day. A complimentary lunch and snacks will be furnished at no cost. Attendees may register with Jenni Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling call 812-893-1760. Reservations are encouraged, however walk-ins will be accepted. Babcock said volunteers from other areas, including the Terre Haute, Vincennes and Rushville districts, are encouraged to attend, as well as those from other areas who have suffered damage.
According to Babcock, "People committed to volunteer their time will be asked to do house-to-house visitations to assess damages and file reports to a Long-Term Recovery committee."