November 05, 2020 | by Sonja Edd-Bennett
We’re excited to welcome Will Ebeler, our new AmeriCorps Member with the Disaster Response Ministry.
AmeriCorps is a national service program that provides opportunities for people to participate in community development projects that address the most critical problems in our nation. Some Americorps members focus on direct service, while others focus on capacity-building that allows community organizations to better serve their constituents. We’re partnering with AmeriCorps through the Volunteer Infrastructure Project, a statewide program that focuses on helping service organizations develop more effective volunteer programs.
Wildfires are a tragic fact of life in our Conference, and an important part of our ministry work is providing emergency aid to survivors. We rely on the help of volunteers, and when planning a disaster response effort, we consider our capacity in terms of both volunteer numbers and material resources.
Sometimes we do not have volunteers who can travel to the affected areas on such short notice. We were heartbroken by the destruction caused by the numerous fires throughout the Conference, but because of where many of our most active volunteers are located, we decided we were only able to respond in Santa Cruz County, to the CZU Lightning Complex Fire; and in Butte County, to the North Complex Fire.
In other situations, there are volunteers who are willing and able to respond but we simply do not have the material resources to respond effectively. When responding to the North Complex Fire, we found so much need from so many people that we used our supplies faster than we could replenish them. By the time our team left Butte County, we had run out of several of the tools that we provide.
We are entering the second year of having an AmeriCorps Member working in the Disaster Response Ministry. Ebeler is replacing Lucy Nelson, who was with us last year in the same role.
We are grateful for the work Nelson did to develop the organizational infrastructure needed to improve our volunteer capacity. She spent much of her time defining our volunteer needs and refining our volunteer intake process. Nelson worked closely with both the Offices of Disaster Response Ministry and Volunteers in Mission to ensure best practices for volunteer management were in place regarding applications, record keeping, reporting and more. Her work strengthened collaboration between the two programs, their systems and web pages, and job descriptions were developed for district and conference level volunteer positions needing to be filled.
Looking forward, Ebeler’s goal for the coming year will be to build on our existing foundation to improve both our volunteer and material capacity. He will finalize our volunteer intake process, work to develop a coordinated strategy to recruit volunteers from throughout the Conference and develop a retention program focusing on appreciation and soliciting feedback. He is also starting a donations project that will help replenish some of our supplies in preparation for the coming year. This project will establish an infrastructure that helps us maintain that capacity in the long term and will help members throughout the Conference feel more involved in our disaster response efforts. Keep your eye out for communication from Ebeler in the coming weeks with more information about this and other projects.
Ebeler is excited to join the Disaster Response Ministry after working in the theater industry as a scenic carpenter. He holds a BA in Sociology from the University of California, Davis, and will enroll at Harvard Law School in the fall of 2021.
The placement of an AmeriCorps Member with the California Nevada Conference of The United Methodist Church comes to us through a partnership with the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership based in Santa Rosa, California.