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* * * * * Disaster Response News * * * * *

Interested in disaster response?  Contact us to learn more!

March 30, 2015

Cyclone Pam Devastates Island Nation

One of the strongest storms recorded in recent history destroyed much of the small island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific in mid-March.  Already one of the poorest nations in the region, Vanuatu suffered devastating damage and loss of life as Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm, made landfall.  The president of Vanuatu is quoted as saying that all the infrastructure and development of the last several years has been completely destroyed and that the humanitarian need is immediate. 

Message from Zach Wolgemuth, Executive, UCC Disaster Ministries:

"We will be supporting the recovery efforts through various trusted partners, such as ACT Alliance, and continue to monitor needs as they arise.  This is a devastating disaster that will take years to recover from. I urge you to encourage your congregations to be in prayer for the survivors and our sisters and brothers, specifically for the Churches of Christ Vanuatu which is a Global Ministries Bi-Lateral partner. Individuals and congregations wanting to support the relief and recovery efforts are encouraged to give to the International Emergency Relief fund." 

Read the complete article by Zach Wolgemuth.

Links to related news articles: 






December 23, 2014

Volunteers Needed in Florida

UCC Disaster Ministries has been working closely with the Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG) in Pensacola, Florida for several months. Since that time we sent a long-term volunteer, Betzi Yungclas, to work with the LTRG to do estimates and work directly with volunteer groups in the repair and reconstruction of homes. We have also been working closely with the Florida Conference, which has provided a tool trailer that we are helping to stock with appropriate tools for volunteers to use when they serve.

Now we need your help in signing groups up to serve. Groups are needed January through August of 2015. The volunteer coordinator recently noted the following in an e-mail to me. “We are desperate for volunteers for the months of April - May - June - July and August”

Below is some information about the flood. For additional information and to register a group, follow the link at the end.

On April 29, 2014 the skies over Pensacola, Florida opened up and unleashed a deluge of rain. The National Weather Service called the event “historic.”  In a matter of hours the region received the equivalent of approximately a half year's worth of rain. Approximately 2 feet of rain in a day and a half caused severe flooding that impacted thousands of families, damaged and destroyed homes and left many wondering how to put their lives back together.

UCC Disaster Ministries is helping answer that question by providing volunteers, tools and financial support. You can be a part of this ministry of service by volunteering your time and bringing a friend.           Registration information here.

Zach Wolgemuth

Executive, UCC Disaster Ministries



December 11, 2014

Typhoon Hagupit Response in the Philippines

Dear Friends, 

By now you are likely aware of the major typhoon that made landfall, in the Philippines, this past weekend. The typhoon has impacted many of the same communities that suffered at the hands of super typhoon Haiyan approximately 13 months ago. UCC Disaster Ministries has been responding, in a significant way, in the Philippines for over a year now. I am slated to make a trip to the affected region in January to assess our ongoing work and to assess needs from this latest disaster.

While we are not issuing a specific appeal for this response, we are responding to the current emergency needs and expect to engage in long-term recovery and livelihood restoration efforts in the coming months. We have already provided $20,000 to trusted partners who are involved in providing emergency relief.

In order to have the capacity to provide ongoing support and to help restore livelihoods we are strongly encouraging individuals and congregations to support the International Emergency Relief fund https://secure3.convio.net/ucc/site/Donation2?df_id=1234&1234.donation=form1

We also request your continued prayers for survivors and the families that have suffered great loss at the hands of these two major typhoons.

For additional information and continued updates about UCC Disaster Ministries response to typhoon Hagupit visit http://www.ucc.org/disaster/

In Christ,

Zach Wolgemuth

Executive, UCC Disaster Ministries



November 18, 2014

15 Volunteers Needed to Work with Brethren in New Jersey

We have received an appeal from our colleagues at Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) for volunteers at their Toms River, New Jersey site, where new homes are being built in partnership with O.C.E.A.N. Inc.  Earlier this year UCC Disaster Ministries provided a $50,000 grant to O.C.E.A.N. Inc. to help offset the cost of construction materials for homes that are being built for Sandy survivors (renters) who were displaced. Upon completion, these homes will be owned and maintained by O.C.E.A.N. Inc. and rented on a sliding scale.

BDM volunteers are building the homes. BDM is providing all the tools, construction management, cooking and accommodations for volunteers.  There is no cost for volunteering, and all transportation between the volunteer house and worksite is covered. They are in need of 15 volunteers Nov. 30 – Dec. 5.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Kim Gingerich at 717-586-1874.


October 16, 2014

Long-Term Disaster Recovery Volunteers Needed Across the U.S.

Opportunities to help in long-term disaster recovery in Spring/Summer 2015 are available in several states.  Recovery goes on long after the storm has passed.

Learn more on the UCC Disaster Ministries website

October 16, 2014

How is UCC Disaster Ministries Helping African Countries against Ebola?

Report on Ebola from State of Ohio Emergency Operations Center

What You Need to Know About Ebola (Infographic from Ohio Department of Health)


October 2014

News from UCC Disaster Ministries Executive, Zach Wolegmuth

> Ebola Response

Most of you are aware of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. UCC Disaster Ministries is working with various partners to help raise awareness and contain the virus. Follow the link for a recent article related to our work. http://www.ucc.org/news/ebola-outbreak-10012014.html

Don’t forget to periodically check the Disaster Ministries website for updates on our work. http://www.ucc.org/disaster/


> CWS U.S. Emergency Response to Present Two-Hour Webinar October 21: "Disaster Long-Term Recovery - An Overview"

Church World Service will present a free webinar on disaster long-term recovery basics on Tuesday, October 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern time. 

Led by Susanne Gilmore, CWS Emergency Response Specialist, this two-hour webinar will cover a wide range of topics designed to help communities rebuild and recover after a disaster. It will be useful for clergy, lay leaders and staff of any other organization who may provide disaster response or recovery assistance to people affected by disasters, and anyone planning to mitigate the hazards in their community before a disaster strikes.

Space is limited.  Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.


August 2014

Even an extended weekend work trip can make a big difference
A report from Director Jim Ditzler

Hurley family home under construction

Interior of mobile home being rebuilt for Coleman family

Two families in southern West Virginia need help completing construction on their homes.  Both families had major roof damage from the excessive snow produced by Hurricane Sandy.  On top of their housing needs, the Hurleys' 10 year old son has brain cancer, and the Colemans are raising two autistic children.

A good approach here would be an adult work crew of 3-5 workers with at least one person skilled in construction trades. Even a stay of an extended weekend could make a significant impact. There is an ongoing effort to raise enough funds to purchase all materials, so if your group is interested in making a trip, please let us know so that we can check on funding that might be available at the time of your visit.  And knowing that workers are available may help with fund-raising efforts!

Within a 30-minute drive of each house is newly-developed, secure volunteer housing which is just about the best I have ever seen.  Anyone interested in responding should contact Jim Ditzler at 330-262-3242 or jditzler26@gmail.com.  In my absence anyone seeking up-to-date details should contact Jenny Gannaway in West Virginia at jennygannaway@frontier.com or (606) 625-5921.


February 3, 2014

Church World Service Asking for School Kits

Church World Service is in need of School Kits, which give children in impoverished schools, refugee camps, or other difficult settings some of the basic tools for learning.

There are enough kits for immediate needs, but they will be running short within a few months.

Click the link below to learn how to assemble a school kit.




September 16, 2013

Hurricane Sandy almost 1 year later

Volunteers are needed to rebuild homes

One resident's flood story

You are needed now and for the next year in Bergen County, NJ to rebuild homes.  Sandy left the towns of Moonachie and Little Ferry under several feet of salt water for days after a 9-foot ocean surge overflowed the Hackensack River.  Almost all of the small homes in this area were damaged and residents were traumatized. 

Local organizations responded immediately to help support these communities.  Projects are ongoing to repair homes in this area.  However, most of the media focus is on the Jersey shore.  Almost a year after Sandy hit, the small inland area of Northern New Jersey is being overlooked.

This is a largely commercial area, and the residents are working class folks and/or on fixed incomes. Some people are living in their homes with mold and all.  The exterior of the houses look undamaged, but inside, they are in terrible condition. 

The coordinators of the rebuild effort, The Bergen County VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), are asking for our help for at least a year.  There are simply not enough volunteers to help rebuild the more than 100 family homes on the waiting list.  Right now, there are specific jobs involving work on 16 houses that need to be completed by the end of October. 

Work Group Details

  • Work groups of 2 or more are welcome, all skill levels

  • Work as long as you would like: 2 days or more, including weekends

  • Young adults, 16 – 18 years old, are welcome with a 1:4 adult to youth ratio. 

  • The only week that is booked is the last week of October.


  • A converted duplex home that can house up to 30 volunteers at a time

  • Less than 3 miles from most of the worksites

  • 2 kitchens, 2 bathrooms and bunk beds in common areas

  • Groups bring their own bedding and prepare their own meals

  • Cost:  $20 per person, per night

Register your group




Contact Judy Moore, UCC Disaster Recovery Registrar

802-299-8290 or  jmooreucc@gmail.com 


One resident's flood story

One resident explained the night of October 29 this way,

"I went outside around 11 pm to check around my property.  The wind and rain had died down so I thought we were in the clear. There were a few downed branches in my yard, but otherwise we were okay.  

I went back inside, and 15 minutes later I started to hear every car alarm on the block go off.  I stepped outside and found that about 7 feet of water had flooded our entire street.

When I opened the basement door, I found water all the way up to the third step.  I turned around and closed the door behind me and just hoped I didn't need anything down there as the entire basement was under water.  

We had to stand outside on our front steps, which are already 10 feet up from the ground, so the rescue helicopters could count how many people they had to come get. We left our water-logged home by raft a few hours later."  

Many of the residents of Little Ferry and Moonachie have similar stories. Even the local shelters they were sent to inevitably flooded,  and over 2,000 people were eventually evacuated to a shelter 20 miles away.

Description of current conditions in Bergen County, NJ from Marisa Santiago, Volunteer Coordinator, onsite at The Bergen County VOAD
(Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster)

When you drive through Moonachie and Little Ferry, New Jersey, you can't tell that Hurricane Sandy devastated the area.  From the street, most houses look as they did before the storm.

Inside the homes, it's a different story. The first floors and basements have been gutted. Residents are living with mold or bare wall studs, waiting for assistance.

Almost a year after the storm, we continue to sign up new clients who are in need of help to get their homes and lives back together. Many residents thought that they would be able to handle repairs on their own, but only now are realizing the amount of work ahead of them.

Many of our clients have lived in their homes for decades. Some lost all of their possessions, and many did not have flood insurance.  FEMA's help could only take people so far into the rebuilding process, and many did not receive assistance that covered their actual repair bills.

These two working-class towns have fewer than 15,000 residents combined, and 400 of the households live in mobile home communities.

Nobody could have predicted that an ocean surge would travel 30 miles from the shore, damage and then overtake a berm on the Hackensack River, flooding several towns.

The water receded the next afternoon but left damaged homes, flooded cars and destroyed property in its wake.  The flood consisted of brackish water—salt water mixed with fresh—along with industrial pollutants, all types of debris and fish you normally find only in the ocean.  And in the months to follow we would find that mold became a pressing issue in so many of these homes.

The Bergen County VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) has been involved in the area's recovery efforts since even before the storm.  Our Hurricane Sandy Long Term Recovery Committee has pledged to assist residents "until the job is done or the money is gone."

We have repaired over 400 homes in Bergen County, and there are still hundreds more to go.  Some houses have major repairs, which are estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars. To stretch our donated funds, we try to use as much volunteer labor as possible.

For more information, email or call:
Judy Moore: 802-299-8290 or jmooreucc@gmail.com

To register for a mission trip:



June 25, 2013

FEMA Releases Emergency Guide for Houses of Worship

This guide, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provides houses of worship with information about emergency operations planning for the spectrum of threats and hazards they may face.  


It discusses actions that may be taken before, during, and after an incident in order to reduce the impact on property and any loss of life, and it encourages every house of worship to develop an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).  


Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship (PDF)



UCC Resource for Local Church Emergency Preparedness

There is also a resource for local churches at www.ucc.org  that is helpful in developing a disaster preparedness and response plan:




Find out more, ask questions, join us!

Contact Team Coordinators Jim Ditzler (330-262-3242)
or George Siddall (513-228-0515) to learn more.



Did you know... ?

. . . that the Ohio Conference is one of just three organizations in the United States that assembles and distributes disaster response clean up and personal care kits.

Kit ingredient lists (PDF) - One page, easy to print

. . . that the Ohio Conference Disaster Response Ministry served as the model for the other UCC disaster response ministries?





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