Since The Advance will not be offering any matching funds for Giving Tuesday this year, the UMVIM, SEJ Staff and Board has come together and pledged $12,000 to be used as matching fund. So, on November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016, donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $12,000. We believe our mission is big, and we also believe that we can't send trained, equipped volunteers into the field to show Christian Love in Action without the support of our community.
This year, learn more from those who have personally experienced the impact of all UMVIM has to offer. We asked South Carolina Early Response Team Coordinator, Billy Robinson to share about his experience.
How do volunteers help you carry out your mission as the coordinator of Early Response Teams in South Carolina?
We in South Carolina, like most everywhere, are all volunteers. Without volunteers we would have no Early Response Teams, and we would miss out on so many dire needs and opportunities to allow God's love to flow through us in our actions, care, love and concern for others. Coordinating disaster response is chaotic, especially in the early stages of any disaster such as our October 2015 floods and recent tropical storm Hermine. It is the same in emergency response like my paid profession as a Fire Officer/Paramedic. It is vital to have people who will fill in leadership positions and coordinate responses in regional locations, especially in large scale disasters. Without them and all the other wonderful volunteers and support across UMVIM and the United Methodist Church, it would be impossible. Volunteers are the backbone of all we do: helping with training (we have eight UMCOR Trainers); preparing and maintaining our seven ERT Trailers; providing leadership as team leaders and regional coordinators and participating on our state ERT Board; Of course, volunteers are the hard working dedicated people who put tarps on roofs, run chainsaws and muck out while always being listeners across South Carolina, the southeast, and the entire United States. A South Carolina ERT team recently came back from Louisiana.
What differences do you see in teams whose leaders have been trained by UMVIM, SEJ?
We require our leaders to be trained through UMVIM & ERT. This gives them a firm foundation of expectations and quality management that we expect out of them and their teams. It instills in them the true Christian values and attitudes that we expect them and their team members to put forth at all times.
Share a brief story about the impact of volunteers.
During our South Carolina "1 in 1000-year flood" of October 2015, we quickly became overwhelmed especially across the midlands to the coast. One of the hardest hit areas was the Charleston/Summerville area. I immediately called out to Troy Thomas, who is our Low Country ERT Coordinator (our state is divided in four regions, and we have an ERT Coordinator and two Assistants in each). He already had volunteers out helping people on day one and continued coordinating ERT efforts for three months among various agencies and organizations plus teams coming in to South Carolina from other states. His wife, Renee, was instrumental in helping get teams housed and taken care of. Troy also performed his paid job as an officer with Mount Pleasant Fire Department on the days he was not doing muck outs, and he let his secondary construction business lapse for the three-month period.
Many times we do not see the impact or fruits of our labor, but Troy saw it first hand in a man named Peter. Peter was a big man that was angered that his home was flooded and no one had made it out to help him. He also had very little to do with the church or Christians. He flagged Troy down in the street and told him that he needed help. Troy turned to see Peter's flooded home with water still up to the windows. As soon as the floodwaters subsided Troy was able to send a team of 32 people in to help Peter. Peter began to see the love, care and compassion of Jesus Christ through the ERT volunteers' witness of "Christian Love In Action" including their intensive labor to muck out his home. At the end of the day, they all gathered together in a circle in the street in front of Peter's home to pray. During the prayer, Peter broke down to his knees and with the ERT gathered around him, he gave his life to Jesus Christ!
We even saw volunteers cross state, district and conference lines to help. In the Pee Dee Region (Georgetown to Myrtle Beach) of our state, the ERT Coordinator, Rev. Ken Phelps, was land locked for three days due to roadways and bridges being washed out. So, Rev. George Olive of Surfside Beach helped coordinate ERT efforts and provide assessments along with Ann Huffman and others from North Carolina ERT until Ken could get freed. They continued to assist Ken for months due to the widespread damage.