New Depot Aids West Virginia Flood Response


The new relief-supply depot in West Virginia has seen a ring of support that has helped thousands of flood survivors.
The new relief-supply depot in West Virginia has seen a ring of support that has helped thousands of flood survivors.

A new disaster relief-supply depot in West Virginia is helping thousands of flood survivors

By Susan Kim, contributor to

August 4, 2016 — A new relief-supply depot established last spring by the West Virginia Annual Conference, together with training for disaster response coordinators and volunteers, is already helping churches and communities in the region to be more prepared for disasters. 

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) supported the conference initiative with training for its district disaster response coordinators to familiarize them with equipment and resources at the New Vision Depot in Beaver, W.V., and provide a refresher in early response practices.

When flooding struck West Virginia in June, the response was more effective because people were prepared, explained Greg Forrester, assistant general secretary for U.S. Disaster Response. “When the flooding occurred, the trained district coordinators knew what their role was within their districts, and were able to respond immediately and appropriately.”

UMCOR does not fund the development or construction of relief-supply depots but, instead, helps annual conferences thoughtfully plan the placement of depots to ensure they help the most disaster survivors in the most efficient way.

“Our real contribution comes through our roster of training courses for Early Response Teams, Care Teams, disaster case management, and Connecting Neighbors,” Forrester said.

A connection that works

Dan Lowther, who was a United Methodist disaster response coordinator in West Virginia for eight years, said he saw relief supplies being shipped out of the New Vision Depot, and more supplies arriving from both Sager Brown, an UMCOR depot in Louisiana, and the North Carolina Conference.

“Our connection has worked wonderfully through this,” said Lowther. “Since we moved in, we’ve expanded a little during this flood, and we’ve been able to take over some office space.”

In addition to sending and assembling kits, local churches and businesses are also providing meals for volunteers, together forming a ring of support.

The depot also works in partnership with emergency management. John Zilinski, director of Raleigh County emergency services, said he sees the operation as a real blessing.

“This has been a dream of ours for years, to have a some type of center in the southern part of the state where we could bring everything together and push things out in a timely fashion. This [depot] proved itself here the first night of the floods. It’s just awesome to see the UMCOR U-Hauls arrive with all these kits,” Zilinski said.