Harvey Disaster Recovery Leaders to Come Onboard

In response to Hurricane Harvey, the Mission Vitality Center brings on board two key positions to lead the disaster recovery efforts. This is as a result of assessment and consultation with Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference; Cabinet; the Conference Disaster Response Committee and the United Methodist Committee on Relief [UMCOR].

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Vicki McCuistion will serve as Disaster Recovery Asset Manager and will begin this work full-time in mid-October. This role will manage the assets offered by partners both within and outside of the Conference through donations and volunteer teams. This role will also gather stories and updates that invite continued support and involvement over the long-term timeline of recovery.

McCuistion previously served as the Executive Director of the Barnabas Connection, a non-profit in Wimberley, TX that played a significant role in the long-term recovery efforts responding to the 2015 Blanco River floods.

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Nikki Leaverton will serve as Disaster Recovery Director and will begin this full-time work in mid-October as well. The Disaster Recovery Director will lead the overall operational efforts of recovery. This involves oversight of services in the long-term recovery field through case management and construction management work. The Disaster Recovery Director will partner with the Disaster Recovery Asset Manager in the deployment of volunteers.

Leaverton comes with ten years of experience in UMCOR disaster long-term recovery processes. She also served as a consultant and trainer for UMCOR assisting various conferences in their disaster response and long-term recovery work.

These two roles are critical to setting in place our long-term recovery infrastructure. Likewise, they will partner operationally with the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Eugene Hileman and Conference United Methodist Volunteers-In-Mission [UMVIM] Coordinator Frank Rojas through the recruitment of volunteers to assist in rebuilding efforts and the implementation of case management to assist the most vulnerable affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Over the past month, many Early Response Team [ERT] volunteers from within conference have been trained and deployed to bring relief to those affected by clearing of fallen trees, mucking, cleaning out water damage homes, and applying plastic tarps to stabilize roofs until permanent repairs can be made.

Early Response Teams are still needed and are encouraged to register online. Continual deployment and presence of teams remains critical.

The conference received volunteers from across the country through the UMC connection coming from Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri, Utah, California, South Dakota, and Colorado. Teams have also come from annual conferences within the state including Central Texas, North Texas, and Texas. It is estimated that ERT trained volunteer teams will be needed until December as local communities are grappling with the long-term community-based infrastructure for rebuilding efforts that could easily take three to five years, particularly in the most vulnerable areas.

In the meantime, churches are encouraged and invited to organize their UMVIM teams to participate in rebuilding efforts. The Conference UMVIM Committee is also looking for churches to host a UMVIM Leaders training. Participants will gain insight on setting the spiritual posture and tone in being a UMVIM team and the preparations and considerations necessary for teams being in mission during this one-day training.

While the training is applicable to all types of UMVIM’s, domestic and international, the emphasis of this training is the long-term recovery response to Hurricane Harvey. A steady and consistent flow of Rio Texas Conference UMVIM teams over the next few years is critical to the recovery efforts. To express interest in hosting a UMVIM Leaders Training Session or putting together a UMVIM team, please contact Conference VIM Coordinator, Frank Rojas, at 512.422.0210 and/or vim.riotx@gmail.com.