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First Early Response Team Responds to Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey 2017

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) Western Jurisdiction sent the first Early Response Team (ERT) to Victoria, Texas from September 18 through September 30, 2017. Tom Mattick lead the thirteen person team. It included ten (Kristy Albanece, Nancy Cushman, Annie Gildner, Trish Hamrick, Julie Littler, Jo Robinson, Tom Mattick, Goerge Cushman, Nate Van Stralen, and Johnny Ware) from the Desert Southwest Annual Conference and three (Ken Duran, Ken Ellis, and Miguel Mairena) from Cal-Pac Annual Conference.

The team arrived on September 19 at the end of the day. First United Methodist Church of Victoria, in the Rio Texas Annual Conference, served as the receiving church. This church can provide space for at least three groups at a time. To date, they do not have a formal case manager. However, a pastor from another Methodist church in Victoria is handling the cases.

September 20 was the first work day for the combined team. The group was divided into three groups: one moved the already-cut wood to the street where the city would pick it up; another reviewed new cases and the third cleaned and tarped the first house assigned.

The work on this house took three days. This home had never been completed and had been built probably in the 1960s. Its walls made of inferior material, probably compressed wood, were soaked by rain and wind. The owner of the house had lost her husband three months before our arrival. The team tarped the roof to cover the many gaps and the outside of the house. Inside, they cleaned out two rooms and a closet then threw out a refrigerator that didn’t work. It rained twice while they worked on this house.

The team began work on another house by September 23. They covered holes in the roof with a blue tarp, cleaned two rooms, then discarded all damaged items including part of the drywall. The owner’s daughter and son-in-law were living in the home; the owner was living with her sister due to the terrible condition of the house.

September 24 was a Sunday – the group attended three worship services at the First United Methodist Church. The rain was so heavy on that day that it left standing water in some streets.

On Monday, September 25th, they were assigned the third house. Once again, the roof was tarped to cover the many holes caused by the hurricane. The most challenging problem at this home was a significant accumulation of rainwater in the yard. The group dug channels on the sides of the house so water could travel out to the street and not continue flooding the home. While the team worked, a considerable downpour occurred. The family included two sons, but one of them could not live there because of his asthma.

By September 26 they worked on the fourth house. They were only able to cover the roof with a blue tarp on the main building. The second building housed the washer and dryer, but the team could not work on that roof because it was too dangerous. The house owner was a member of the Victoria Police force.

That same day they started on the fifth house. Part of the roof had been torn off during the hurricane and a tree branch had fallen on another part of the roof. The team cut and removed the branch then covered the the roof with a blue tarp. They helped the owner clean and cleared out everything deteriorated from inside the home. The group worked there until September 27 when another downpour occurred subsequently they could not finish the inside of this house.

Regular maintenance had not occurred in a long time for all the houses where they worked. The pastor of First United Methodist Church of Victoria said, “all of the people most affected by the hurricane were already living in disaster conditions. The hurricane simply brought the situation to light.”

The group was scheduled to leave in the morning of September 28, but Ken Ellis’ vehicle suffered a mechanical malfunction the day before. Ken Ellis and Ken Duran stayed until they repaired the car.

The mission was productive, and the team was a supportive and hard-working group. Tom, the team leader, indicated that he had participated in other ERT missions, but it was the first time as a leader.