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UMCOR depot serves as hub for aid to tsunami-stricken areas

 


UMCOR depot serves as hub for aid to tsunami-stricken areas

Jan. 7, 2005

A UMNS Report
By John Gordon*

BALDWIN, La. (UMNS) — Thousands of health kits with soap, bandages and other essentials are headed to Asia from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The kits were assembled by volunteers from around the United States working at UMCOR’s Sager Brown Depot in south Louisiana. The depot is a hub for the flow of relief supplies from UMCOR to points around the globe.

"It makes me feel good, making all the bags for people that I know that really need them (and) taking time out of my life to help someone else out," said Corey Rosemurgy, a college student from Austin, Texas.

The 25,000 kits, valued at $300,000 to $500,000, were loaded Jan. 6. With the assistance of Church World Service, the supplies will be airlifted to areas devastated Dec. 26 by tsunami waves that killed at least 150,000 people and left millions more homeless in countries around the Indian Ocean.

"The people of the United Methodist Church are always fantastic to respond in whatever the disaster is," said Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR’s executive secretary for U.S. disaster response. "And our phones have been ringing off the hook."

The health kits also contain toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, combs, nail files and fingernail clippers.

"We have found that if you’re able to use just the soap and water, that’s a big help in helping keep down the diseases and everything that comes in after a disaster like this," Hazelwood said.

The United Nations warns the death toll could double if drinking water and other essential services are not restored quickly.

Congregations around the United States donated items for the health kits.

"My word is a word of gratitude for the gifts that people give, both in material resources and of their funding, to help us bring relief and to bring help and healing to people that have been broken because of these disasters," Hazelwood said.

Cash donations are still needed to help with the disaster relief, he said.

"The main thing that we need, really, is funding — money so that we can buy the materials and supplies on the ground, where they’re needed," he said. "It costs so much to ship from the United States."

UMCOR, working with other faith-based partners, is making a long-term commitment to help the tsunami victims. Church World Service, which receives support from 36 denominations, is involved in the rush delivery of more than $900,000 in supplies to stricken countries.

Hazelwood said relief funds pledged by governments will not be enough.

"We’re there for the long haul, and we’ll be working not only to bring these relief supplies, but doing the development work and the long-term recovery. Our hope is to work through our partners there, and the goal has already been set to rebuild at least 10,000 homes."

UMCOR, founded in 1940, has a long history of providing disaster relief. Sager Brown began as a distribution center for supplies to victims of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and later became the United Methodist Church’s worldwide shipping hub for relief aid.

"We sent about 10,000 flood buckets to Florida," said Richard Sockrider, coordinator of material resources at the depot. "We’ve had shipments to Armenia. We’ve had shipments to the Republic of Georgia. We’ve had shipments to Afghanistan."

Sager Brown operates from a 48,000-square-foot warehouse. In addition to health kits, the depot also assembles school, sewing and bedding kits. On average, 60,000 kits are sent from the center every month.

"Last year was the best year we’ve ever had," said Gwen Redding, director of UMCOR Sager Brown.

In 2004, the depot shipped 250 tons of relief supplies worth $3.1 million.

"It’s a privilege to work for an agency that offers this kind of help to everyone in need," Redding said. "We have to hope that we can make a difference."

Donations to UMCOR’s "South Asia Emergency" relief efforts can be placed in local church offering plates or sent directly to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, NY 10115. Designate checks for UMCOR Advance #274305 and "South Asia Emergency." Online donations can be made by going to www.methodistrelief.org. Those making credit-card donations can call (800) 554-8583.

*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer in Marshall, Texas.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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