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Ohio/West Virginia Disaster Response Ministry

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

Interested in disaster response?  Contact us to learn more!

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  In my absence anyone seeking up-to-date details should contact Jenny Gannaway in West Virginia at 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 


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

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  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?





Ohio Conference UCC, 6161 Busch Blvd., Suite 100, Columbus OH 43229  •  800-282-0740
614-885-0722  •  
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