By Jenn Dorsch Messler
Brethren Disaster Ministries is sharing updates including a schedule change for the Carolinas rebuilding site, news of the opening of a new rebuilding site in Ohio, and an update from Puerto Rico.
Carolinas schedule change
The Brethren Disaster Ministries Carolinas project has not hosted weekly volunteers since mid March due to COVID-19 concerns as well as a planned break in the schedule around Easter. Brethren Disaster Ministries also was notified by the church where our volunteer housing is located that they will not accept out of state volunteers this summer due to concerns around COVID-19.
Therefore, we will need to pack up that site in June, two months before we had previously planned to leave. This will affect our ability to host volunteers and we must cancel the groups that are on our schedule for June at the Carolinas site. The majority of these groups had either cancelled already or were down to very low numbers of people willing to travel.
Another local partner in Lumberton, the North Carolina Baptist on Mission, has offered to host our scheduled July groups that are still interested in serving as well as anyone else who is interested in serving at all in 2020. They have their own building for their housing that is not shared with a church or other group. Please contact Terry Goodger (firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-635-8730) for information on how to serve with the Baptists in Lumberton. A new location for the Project 1 site is being explored with a previously planned opening date in mid September.
Ohio site opening and volunteer needs
This Memorial Day weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the 15 devastating tornadoes that touched down in the area of Dayton, Ohio. Brethren Disaster Ministries is scheduled to open a rebuilding site for tornado recovery in Dayton in July, and we are looking for local volunteers to serve. No overnight lodging or meals will be provided during July so volunteers must live within driving distance. Those interested must be available for a full five days to serve for any of the weeks of July 13-31. There will be a limited number of volunteer openings each week due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Because of this, those interested will need to apply in advance by returning completed registration forms and COVID-19 Safety Agreements, and will be notified if there is a spot open for them. To apply to volunteer, contact Burt Wolf (SouthernOhioBDM@gmail.com or 937-287-5902) or Terry Goodger (email@example.com at 410-635-8730). See the poster pictured here for more details.
Details are being worked out for how to physically create safe spaces and other protocols around COVID-19 concerns for when overnight volunteers may be permitted to serve in Ohio. Right now that is projected to be August with those on the Brethren Disaster Ministries schedule, but this is subject to change based on the situation as that time approaches.
The following update was provided by Carrie Miller, long-term Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteer serving at the Puerto Rico Rebuilding site:
At the beginning of travel restrictions due to COVID-19 in mid March, the Puerto Rico rebuilding site had to shut down completely for a whole month. As the pandemic has gotten worse, and in consultation with the Puerto Rico District of the Church of the Brethren, the decision to cancel any future volunteer groups was made. The project was previously only scheduled to be open for volunteers until May 23. Thankfully, with new protocols in place, work has been able to start back up slowly with a local contractor and with Brethren Disaster Ministries construction liaison Carmelo Rodriguez. An unexpected “plus” of strict stay-at-home orders is that many clients who were approved to receive construction materials paid for by the Emergency Disaster Fund, and then complete the work themselves, have been able to finish their work. To date, the project has completed work for 87 cases and has 25 cases in progress that are expected to be finished by the end of June. Although circumstances are not ideal, we are beyond grateful for our partnerships with the Puerto Rico District, local contractors, and community members as we work together in finishing out our work.
Continue to pray
Brethren Disaster Ministries staff continue to pray for you all and your districts as we all navigate the changes that have happened in our lives. Please keep in touch with ways that you, your churches, and districts are serving and let us know how we can support you. We also always welcome prayer requests and praises that we can lift up. Thank you for all you have done and are doing to help those around you and in your families who need support.
— Jenn Dorsch Messler is the director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more about this Church of the Brethren ministry at www.brethren.org/bdm .