By Jasmine Haynes, Communications Specialist
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when health care facilities across the country are low on personal protective equipment (PPE), Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Response Teams take a multi-regional approach to collecting and distributing needed supplies to hospital staff on the front lines.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief, more commonly known as UMCOR, regularly encourages faith communities to prepare UMCOR cleaning kits to store at United Methodist Disaster Response facilities so that they can quickly be distributed when needed. They provide supplies to help individuals and families clean up after flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. Each kit consists of many cleaning materials which include five dust or N95 respirator masks and two pairs of rubber gloves.
Weeks ago, during the Metro Area flooding, Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson became a temporary disaster response hub and collected various types of donations and needed materials. More recently, amidst the coronavirus outbreak Dr. Michael Ard, a physician at Winston Medical Center, reached out to Mississippi Conference disaster response coordinator, Mellie Thomas, looking for help with the shortage of personal protective equipment in Winston County. Thomas and East Jackson District disaster response coordinator, Hugh Langley unpacked 80 cleaning buckets and handed over an assortment of 400 dust and N95 masks and gloves. Additionally, an estimated 300 hazardous material suites were on hand and shock wave disinfectant, which kills coronavirus, were distributed as well.
“You all added a critical layer of protection,” said Ard after receiving the PPE materials.
According to Thomas, the Mississippi Conference Disaster Response Teams are continuously communicating with voluntary organizations active in disasters (VOAD) and emergency management partners through weekly state calls and daily local calls.
“There is such a great need and valid fear correlated to the current lack of protective supplies,” shared Thomas. “We have assisted with food distribution and are assisting with emotional and spiritual care for medical staff and other emergency workers on the front lines of the pandemic and will help within our capabilities with any task that is asked of us.”
On the Coast
At Camp Faith, a Hurricane Katrina era-created disaster response hub in Biloxi, registered nurse Sonny Soileau rounded up nine volunteers and unpacked 500 UMCOR cleaning buckets. They retrieved around 2,500 total masks and approximately 60 of those were N95 masks. The masks were evenly distributed into three boxes and delivered to Memorial Hospital Gulfport, Merit Health Biloxi and the Singing River Health System.
Soileau explained that his faith community—Wiggins First United Methodist Church—is regularly involved in flood muck outs as well as assembling and donating UMCOR cleaning buckets. He also shared that since he knew dust and N95 masks were items on the cleaning bucket packet list, he discussed plans to unpack the kits with Seashore District disaster response coordinator, Rev. David Newton and both agreed that in this current coronavirus climate, the masks would best serve local health care professionals.
“We were proud that we could contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and help our local ‘healthcare heroes’ on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Soileau. “Once they become available again, we plan to restock the buckets with N95 masks and distribute them as originally planned.”
On March 27 at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallman, Brookhaven District disaster response coordinator, Rev. Robert Armstrong and others unpacked flood buckets that were assembled by volunteers from across Mississippi in preparation for disasters.
They harvested three and a half garbage bags full of masks and several hundred pairs and gloves. They distributed the PPE to Brookhaven first respondents and Brookhaven Hospital.
Rev. Dr. Albert Mosley, senior vice president and chief missional integration officer at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital (MLH) reached out to the office of connectional ministries and asked for assistance with PPE materials. Armstrong met a representative from MLH in Winona to hand off the supplies.
Even in this time of global pandemic, Christ calls us to serve His body by supplying their needs and the mission continues.