Now the church is preparing to expand its role in the next disaster.
“Today it is important that churches are known for something in their community or they find their niche. The needs in Walker County are many, so we try to be strategic so we can help more people,” Pastor Mike Butler said. “We still support our local help agencies like Mission of Hope and Backyard Blessings. However, we want disaster response to be our niche/contribution.”
Earlier this month, 10 members were trained in early response at Aldersgate UMC through the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Topics included how to stabilize and secure homes safely and how to work effectively with survivors and others on the response team.
Church members will be receiving UMCOR’s Connected Neighbors training as well so they can develop a disaster plan for the church.
A dozen church members have received training from the American Red Cross, and the church has been approved to serve as a temporary shelter for the agency.
During emergencies, Aldersgate UMC would also be a distribution center and a drop-off point for UMCOR’s cleaning buckets and health kits.
Instructions for assembly of the kits are available at the church website.
Butler has become a certified team trainer through both UMCOR and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.
UMCOR is an international humanitarian aid organization that offers a variety of disaster training programs. UMVIM coordinates short term missions, such as rebuilding efforts.
Butler said Aldersgate’s work in disaster relief is made possible by its association with both agencies as well as its partners at the district and conference level of the United Methodist organization.
In April 2011, Butler was serving at Fairview United Methodist Church in Cullman County. Though the church was spared in the storms, the homes of many church and community members were not.
Fairview UMC served as a host for the early response teams that came from all over the United States to help assist tornado survivors.
In August 2011, Butler came to Walker County to help coordinate the long term recovery efforts of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Housing for volunteer work crews was a pressing need at that time. For the next year, the doors of Aldersgate UMC were open to numerous UMVIM teams.
“As opposed to just putting together a group of guys with hammers, we were able to leverage a lot more resources by hosting,” Butler said.
Butler added that the value of the in-kind labor provided by the skilled volunteers likely exceeded the money that also flowed into the county through the Methodist organization for rebuilding efforts.
By the second anniversary, the North Alabama Conference had provided $220,000 to the Walker County Long Term Recovery Committee to address unmet needs.
Butler has been the pastor at Aldersgate UMC since June 2012.
“Our mission is the great commission and great commandment. However, our niche community ministry at Aldersgate is focusing on disaster response/recovery in our community,” he said.
For more information, visit www.aldersgateisopentoyou.org.