Why two ways to give, to help UM fire victims?

November 02, 2007

The wildfires that ravaged Southern California last month have largely been contained now, but the crisis is far from over. With thousands of structures lost and damages in the billions, financial assistance is urgently needed.


At least five families from two United Methodist congregations lost their homes. At last report no churches, church camps, or parsonages had been destroyed.


United Methodists in the California-Nevada Conference are being asked to help by designating gifts to one of two funds – a fact which some may find confusing. Dr. Sue King, United Methodist Volunteers in Mission and Disaster Response Coordinator for Cal-Nevada, says it’s important that people understand the distinction so that donations are directed as the givers intend. Both ways of giving, she says, are important to the overall response to the southern California churches.


Bishop Swenson’s California Fire Appeal

The first fund is Bishop Swenson’s California Fire Appeal. Gifts designated here are used directly and immediately at the district and local level of the California-Pacific Annual Conference.


“The Bishop’s Appeal allows the California-Pacific Conference to support and continue the ministries of United Methodist churches, as well as supporting humanitarian responses through the UMC churches,” says King. “These funds might be used to provide immediate relief supplies to a church sheltering evacuees or to rebuild a burned church or church camp, or to support the salary of a pastor or additional staff needed – in a place where the building is OK, but there are suddenly no financial resources because of the effects of the wildfire on the congregation and the local economy.”


To get an update on the impact the fires have had on the Cal-Pacific Conference and local churches, see the conference website at http://www.cal-pac.org/.


To donate to Bishop Swenson’s California Fire Appeal, make checks payable to the California-Pacific Annual Conference and mail them to: The California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, 110 Euclid Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.


United Methodist Committee on Relief

The second way to give is through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Gifts so designated will go directly to UMCOR and be combined with gifts from across the country to fund in-depth and long-term response in the months ahead.


“UMCOR funds are only used for humanitarian responses that help communities with relief supplies and long-term recovery,” King says. “Often the funds are used to rebuild homes or provide case management and counseling for people impacted by the fires. Church ministries and church personnel are generally not eligible to receive those funds unless they are formally part of Disaster Recovery staff or host sites for volunteers.”


To donate to UMCOR’s long-term recovery efforts make checks payable to the local church with “Advance Special #901670” (Domestic Disaster Response California Wildfires) in the subject line. Visit the UMCOR website at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor.


“As always UMCOR offers its prayers and support to those in need,” said Sam Dixon, UMCOR’s chief executive. “We ask for your generous donations to the domestic disaster response advance, as recent emergencies have depleted the funds we use to provide relief and support in disasters such as these.”


UMCOR has already sent an emergency grant of $10,000 to the Cal-Pac Conference for use in the relief/recovery process and has made its disaster response consultants available to assist the conference as needed.


UMCOR consultants help an annual conference develop a Disaster Preparedness Plan before a disaster and help with long-term recovery programs following a disaster, King says.


King says a church may have members who want to give to just one fund, while others may wish to donate to both the Bishop’s California Fire Appeal and to UMCOR. In that case, she says, the church treasurer will need to send two separate checks: one to Cal-Pacific Annual Conference and a second one to UMCOR.


Churches are reminded that on their monthly remittance form they should note the corresponding total dollars and descriptions for each of these funds, as appropriate: entering line 23 for Bishop’s Appeal and line 28 for UMCOR.


Relief supplies – donations of material goods, such as blankets, that address the immediate needs of disaster victims – are no longer needed in southern California, according to National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). The organization (a member association of every major recognized community-based and faith-based disaster response organization in the country) is urging monetary donations instead.


If you would like to volunteer to help with long-term recovery, please call the UM Volunteers in Mission office, (916)-374-1582, to put your name on a volunteer availability list. You will be notified as soon as Cal-Pacific asks for volunteer teams.


If you want to lead a Disaster Recovery Team to help in Southern California, please register for the upcoming UMVIM team leader training session on December 8th in Bakersfield. Call (916) 374-1584 for details.