Memphis Conference 'connects hearts and hands' to restore hope for many affected by Storm Harvey


Nearly 2,500 cleaning kits (buckets) were assembled and donated by Memphis Conference United Methodists to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Here they are consolidated on a loading dock in Jackson, Tennessee, for transport to the Baldwin, Louisiana depot of United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Photo by Lane Gardner Camp. See more photos by clicking on link above left.




Story and Photos By Lane Gardner Camp 
Director of Communications, Memphis Conference
The United Methodist Church

Immediately after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in late August, United Methodists in West Tennessee and Western Kentucky were asked to "fill a truck" with cleaning kits for storm survivors in Texas and Louisiana.

A cleaning kit (formerly known as a flood bucket or cleaning bucket) is a type of relief kit that helps provide care for vulnerable people during times of crisis. Each kit's value is approximately $65. Click here to see what each kit contains. 
The Memphis Conference's benevolent response was unmistakable on the deadline day, Sept. 11, when nearly 2,500 cleaning kits made their way to Jackson, Tennessee, for consolidated shipment.
A total of 1,680 cleaning kits were loaded onto a 48-foot dry van (trailer) bound for the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana.
Sager Brown is the hub for relief-supply operations of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the denomination’s humanitarian relief and disaster response agency that works not just in the United States, but around the world.
Because the total donations of 2,441 complete cleaning kits exceeded the trailer’s capacity, that left 761 kits at the warehouse to be delivered in the next few weeks, along with some partial kits and loose supplies, according to Rev. Robert Craig, Memphis Conference disaster relief coordinator.
Craig said he will need volunteers in the next two weeks to help fill buckets with remaining supplies. He is in conversation with UMCOR officials about which of its depots will receive the second shipment.
It is likely some of the supplies on the second truck might end up benefitting survivors of September’s Storm Irma, as well as August’s Storm Harvey, said Craig.
Local individuals and companies have volunteered their trailers, trucks, time and fuel to transport the cleaning kit donations, all at no charge to the Memphis Conference. For this Craig voiced extreme gratitude.
All four districts of the Memphis Conference participated in the conference-wide effort, with each delivering more than 500 completed kits to Jackson. The greatest number, 695, came from the Purchase District.
Each district had designated drop-off locations within its borders for churches and individuals to easily make donations.
Diane Colson, lay leader for the Purchase District which covers western Kentucky, said her district was “blessed beyond belief” with kits, as well as money that she said totaled more than $17 thousand.
Money and kits came not just from United Methodists, she explained, but from other individuals and churches of other denominations in her area, as well. WPSD-TV in Paducah, Kentucky, broadcast a story on Aug. 29 that helped spread the word about the district's efforts.

One local merchant provided a “significant discount” on the buckets, which Colson said helped the “more-than-generous” overall response.
Other financial donations for Harvey relief have been sent from all over the conference directly to UMCOR or to the Memphis Conference Treasurer’s Office. As of Sept. 7, just over $9,400 had been received by the Treasurer’s Office, according to Clare Wilson, assistant treasurer. Sept. 14 UPDATE from Treasurer's Office: $52,000.42 has been received.
Many checks were being received at the conference office on Sept. 11 and 12 and expected to arrive throughout the week, said Dr. Joe Geary, Memphis Conference director of Connectional Ministries.
Forty West Designs in Jackson provided the loading dock, warehouse space, and help from at least three of its employees on Sept. 11, to move the relief supply donations onto the UMCOR depot-bound trailer from the trucks and trailers that transported them from district drop-off locations. This was at no cost to the conference.
Many volunteers from throughout the conference helped with loading, transporting and unloading relief supplies from the districts. Volunteers David Archer and Steve Ragsdale from the Metro District talked about having to adjust vehicle transport plans to accommodate the better-than-expected numbers of supply donations.
Craig said he was “overjoyed at the response of love by our conference.”
Witnessing the donations, he said, “That’s what the church is about: connecting our hearts and hands to restore hope.”
Geary expressed “heartfelt thanks to all who made this initial response the best ever from the Memphis Conference in terms of supplies.”
He added, “Team work makes the dream work. Together, we can do much more than individually. When the power of Methodist Connection is passionately embraced and harnessed, God will bless more than we could every dream or imagine.”
Still want to help?
Make financial donations.

  • Send directly to the Memphis Conference Treasurer’s Office and designate the funds accordingly.
  • Make an online financial donation to UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response. Click here for Advance # 901670.
  • Remit via your church’s monthly conference apportionment remittance (designating for the Advance).
 Donate cleaning kits. Volunteer to pack loose supplies. Become a trained responder. 
  • To deploy to any areas affected by Storms Harvey and Irma (or to help following other disasters), individuals must be ERT-trained and possess a current ERT badge. Also, the Memphis Conference must first be invited to respond by the affected United Methodist conferences. (Do not self-deploy!)
  • An Early Response Team (ERT) training class is set for Saturday, Oct. 7, at Brownsville First United Methodist Church in Brownsville, Tennessee. CLICK HERE for details and how to register.
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More Information: 

  • Dr. Joe Geary, Memphis Conference Director of Connectional Ministries: | 731-664-8480
  • ​Rev. Robert Craig, Memphis Conference Coordinator of Disaster Response Ministries: | 731-538-9970