* By Susan Meister

When Dee Montgomery went into her Watseka, Illinois home after flooding in January and February, 2008, she didn’t know where to begin. That is, until fellow United Methodist Diann Peabody came by with a flood bucket.

“Why, there were things in there I wouldn’t have even thought of!” Montgomery exclaimed. “Trash bags, masks, ammonia, gloves, clothespins, a scrub brush, sponges….” Peabody added, “After she received the bucket, she felt better and said, ‘I can do this!’ We brought her encouragement.”

Flood buckets are five gallon buckets filled with supplies to enable people to begin the overwhelming job of cleaning up after a flood or hurricane. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Sager Brown Depot and UMCOR affiliates collect, package and ship buckets to flooded areas all over the United States.

Paul Copeland, pastor at First United Methodist Church in Watseka, agreed that the buckets brought encouragement as well as cleaning supplies. “I think the emotional boost people receive from knowing that there are others who care is as important, if not more so, than the cleaning supplies they receive,” he said.

Local church, conference and UMCOR take lead in response

Watseka and nearby Pontiac, in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, suffered through two floods, one in January and the second in February, when heavy rains east and south of the town overwhelmed the Iroquois River and Sugar Creek. A $10,000 emergency UMCOR grant was sent to the conference after a request by Bishop Sharon A. Brown Christopher. In addition, UMCOR consultant Rick Hill conducted case management training.

First UMC Watseka has been in the forefront of the response and recovery efforts since the first flood. The existing food pantry was expanded, and the Red Cross set up in the basement of the church. Copeland serves as chair of the Iroquois County Long Term Recovery Committee.

“We were ‘primed’ for what God needed us to do,” affirmed Peabody. “Many persons were helped with the ongoing food ministry. They talked to the Red Cross, and then picked up a flood bucket and extra cleaning supplies.” Her husband Chuck added, “We went to one house to help clean up and used flood buckets there because the lady didn’t have supplies. Those rubber gloves sure came in handy!”

UMCOR Sager Brown needs to replenish supplies

Glenn Druilhet, manager of the depot at Sager Brown, reports that 1728 flood buckets have been shipped so far in 2008 to flood-affected areas.

Maxine Allen, disaster coordinator for the Arkansas Conference, who has been busy helping families affected by floods, ice storms and tornadoes, encourage members and congregations to collect flood bucket supplies. ”

We just ask that people pray for us, send donations to UMCOR, and help replenish the supplies at UMCOR Sager Brown. The 1,000 flood buckets we received recently are almost gone. If faithful United Methodists will help, supplies will be available in the future.”

“We want to build up the stock so that we can be in ministry as soon as storms hit,” Druilhet emphasized. Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1.

You can give tangible encouragement to persons in their time of need by purchasing flood buckets. Collect and send flood buckets and supplies to UMCOR Sager Brown. Or make your monetary gifts to UMCOR Material Resources Advance # 901440, so that UMCOR can purchase the needed relief supplies.

*Meister is the Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR