UMCOR executive impressed by workers in Great Plains Conference

David Burke


A two-day trip to the Great Plains Conference has left a United Methodist Committee on Relief official saddened by the flood damage in Nebraska but impressed with the people working to get others’ lives back in order.

“The conference has done a really good job of getting ahead of it,” Cathy Earl, director of disaster response, said Tuesday night. “You really have a deep desire to do all you can as a conference.”

Photos show the aftermath of the flood damage in Columbus and Bellwood, Nebraska. Photos by the Rev. Hollie Tapley
Earl and Christy Smith, disaster response consultant for UMCOR, spent Monday and Tuesday in the Great Plains. They drove through Fremont and Inglewood looking at damage before meeting the Rev. Hollie Tapley, conference disaster response coordinator, in Columbus. They left early Wednesday morning to assess damage in Iowa.

Earl praised Columbus First UMC and its pastor, the Rev. Cindi Stewart, for the work they did immediately after the floods.

“They are just naturally living into their calling,” Earl said. “Because of what they’ve done, the work they’ve done becoming a part of the fabric of the community, they’re going to be leaders.”

Earl was also complimentary of the Rev. Bonnie Brock and her congregation at North Loup UMC.

“She’s amazing,” Earl said. “Although it’s a small community, they are helping out.”

Much of Earl’s praise came for the Great Plains staff member in charge of the relief operations.

“The conference is very well-prepared because you have Hollie Tapley in the role of disaster response coordinator,” Earl said. “She knows exactly what to do and how to get out in the community and work with the governments and the churches.

“Throw in some really responsive people in the mix, and you’ve got a good team,” Earl added.

Earl praised Tapley’s “ability to tap into a network of people in the area and across the country,” she said. “She gets it done without a lot of folderol.”

UMCOR gave the Great Plains a $10,000 solidarity grant not long after the mid-March flooding began, and Earl said more would be on the way.

“Hollie’s got her work cut out for her, as does this conference as you continue your assessment and decide the who, what, when and where,” Earl said.

Tapley said she was grateful for the money that had been donated to the flood relief effort -- $180,000 as of earlier this week – but said there still is a great need.

“We know it’s going to take more than what we have,” Tapley said. “We will be relying on UMCOR funding to continue the work that will be taking place for many years to come after all the disasters have been taking place.

“I’m very appreciative of that money, but I do know it’s going to take many more dollars,” she added.

Tapley said that roads in the Columbus area are slowly drying out, but many of them that are without water are slowly sinking.

“I’ve seen a couple we could get into, but a lot we can’t,” she said. “There’s still going to be some drying out and some packing for us to be able to safely go into places.”

Help from Texas

The Great Plains Conference’s disaster relief fund has received more than $7,000 from a Texas United Methodist Church.

Christ Church in Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston, sent a $7,177.01 check to the Tapley after a special offering March 24.

“Having some experience of our own with flooding during Hurricane Harvey and other storms over the years, we are well acquainted with the enormity of the clean-up task and we’re so thankful you are there to help people rebuild their lives,” the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Chappell Temple, wrote to Tapley.

“During the Harvey clean-up we found that monetary contributions that had no strings on them were extremely helpful when we simply wanted to help an individual or family without having to register all the details,” the letter continued.

“I was blown away” after seeing the letter and donation, Tapley said. “We’ve gotten donations from all over the United States, last time I looked. I’m very grateful for that.”

Day of prayer

Gov. Pete Ricketts has declared Sunday as a “Statewide Day of Prayer” in Nebraska.

“As Nebraskans roll up our sleeves and work together on recovery efforts, it is important that each of us ask God for wisdom in seeing and best responding to the needs around us,” Ricketts said in a news release. “Whatever your tradition, Nebraskans are encouraged to lift our state up in prayer this weekend.”

The governor also said he is encouraging churches, communities, organizations and individuals who want to organize a volunteer effort to do so, encouraging visits to to learn more.

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