Brethren Disaster Ministries celebrates Puerto Rico completion and new Ohio project, among updates

By Jenn Dorsch-Messler

Photo courtesy of Carrie Miller
Members of the Brethren Disaster Ministries leadership team in Puerto Rico, where the staff are celebrating completion of a home rebuilding project that was started following Hurricane Maria: (from left) Raquel and José Acevedo (District Disaster Coordinator), Carmelo Rodriguez, and Carrie Miller.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is celebrating completion of a rebuilding project in Puerto Rico in partnership with the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren. The project worked on homes that were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Maria, and completed 100 homes. Brethren Disaster Ministries also celebrates the opening of a new project site in Dayton, Ohio–the first resumption of volunteer work since a shut-down due to COVID-19 that began in mid-March.

Puerto Rico work completed

Since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in Sept. 2017, Brethren Disaster Ministries has worked in partnership with the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren to support those who were affected. This began with coordinating relief supplies and funds, and continued from Sept. 2018 through June 2020 when a volunteer rebuilding site extended the collaboration. The project was previously planned to close at the end of June 2020, but the last two-and-a-half months of volunteer work were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.

Through the work of this project, 100 homes were completed either with volunteer labor, contractor work, or by providing the materials that homeowners could not afford but had other ways to install on their own. Another seven families have been provided materials and the work will be completed soon through their own means. More reporting information about the project will be shared and celebrated in coming months.

Dayton site opens

Brethren Disaster Ministries has resumed volunteer work on national sites since a shutdown due to COVID-19 that began in mid-March. A handful of local volunteers who live in the Dayton, Ohio, area began a week of service on July 14 to serve a family affected by the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes. Wearing masks and observing other safety and cleaning protocols, the volunteers are spending their days installing vinyl siding on one home. The volunteers return to their homes at night and no housing is provided by Brethren Disaster Ministries.

North Carolina move

The Brethren Disaster Ministries Carolinas rebuilding site has been closed after over two years of being housed in Lumberton, N.C. At the end of June, project vehicles and equipment were moved northeast to a new location.

The new coastal North Carolina project location is in Bayboro, Pamlico County, N.C. This area was greatly affected by Hurricane Florence in Sept. 2018, mostly due to flooding. Florence brought a record-breaking storm surge of 9 to 13 feet and devastating rainfall of 20 to 30 inches in some areas along the coast of the Carolinas. The Pamlico County long-term recovery group reports that there are still more than 200 families in the county that have not completely recovered, almost two years later.

Currently, Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers are scheduled to begin serving on this project in mid-September if possible. Volunteers will be housed at Mt. Zion Original Freewill Baptist Church in Bayboro, and work partners have been established.

Nebraska short-term response

Brethren Disaster Ministries has planned a short-term response in Nebraska during the weeks of Aug. 16-29 to rebuild after spring flooding in 2019. Volunteers can sign up for one or two weeks to serve as spots are available. Housing will be provided at a hotel in Omaha, Neb., with work close by. Anyone interested should contact Kim Gingerich, long-term project leader, at 717-586-1874 or . Financial support for this response comes through a grant from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) through funding provided by UPS.

Brethren Disaster Ministries will be monitoring the COVID-19 situation prior to the scheduled dates, and changes or cancellations may be made based on travel restrictions or guidance in August and conversations with local partners. If this response takes place, there will be specific COVID-19 safety protocols in place and all volunteers will be expected to follow them. Onsite project expenses from Monday through Friday will be covered by Brethren Disaster Ministries but travel expenses to and from the site are the volunteer’s responsibility. Please note that Brethren Disaster Ministries is not responsible for non-refundable travel expenses if cancellations occur due to COVID-19.

— Jenn Dorsch-Messler is director of Brethren Disaster Ministries for the Church of the Brethren. Find out more about Brethren Disaster Ministries at .

Go to to subscribe to the Church of the Brethren Newsline free e-mail news service and receive church news every week.

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]