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ERT training prepares United Methodists to respond to disasters

“You are responding to God’s call to be the hope for people,“  said Linda Kropenske, UMCOR trainer and a member of Brookings First UMC. “The work is intense. You will experience several roles—being a listener, a team player, an advocate, a hands-on worker.” Photo: Linda Kropenske, blue shirt on the far left, explains a step when tarping a roof. to participants at the recent ERT training held in Mitchell, South Dakota. Photos by Rev. Rebecca Trefz.

Ways you can respond to the recent hurricanes are by going on a mission trip to Texas over Thanksgiving—scholarships are available. You can also give the 2017 Thanksgiving offering for UMCOR disaster relief. Preparing yourself to be part of a volunteer team—ERT training, is another step you can take.

Kropenske conducted an ERT training for 11 Dakotas United Methodist volunteers. The eight-hour ERT training took place in Mitchell, South Dakota at the Dakotas Conference Center. The volunteers spent time experiencing how to muck out, clean and sort debris, tarping a roof, through hands-on activities and role-playing.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) provides training for Early Response Teams (ERT) and disaster relief. ERT teams are usually some of the first volunteers to arrive on the scene. The goal of ERT is to prepare the home, shelter or building for the next stage of recovery or set the stage for long-term recovery.

After a hurricane strikes, such as Maria, Harvey and Irma, ERT teams are called in to clear debris, remove damaged materials, and muck out a home or building. Florida and Texas are currently calling for ERT teams. Puerto Rico is still working on restoring power and transportation system.

Emily Remmick and Carleen Stoule, members of Legacy UMC, traveled from Bismarck, North Dakota to attend the training. They are hoping that what they learned will equip them to form a team of volunteers to go to help with relief efforts in Texas.  “The training gave us super information and really set us up for what we need to do,” said Remmick.

Photo: Carleen Stoule, lower left, and Emily Remmick, upper left, paricipate in a group activity at the ERT training.

Remmick has been wanting to volunteer and was asked by her pastor, Rev. Brandon Vetter, Legacy UMC,  to attend the training and consider leading a team. “I work from home and have a flexible schedule. When Pastor Brandon asked, I really thought about it and prayed about it. I really feel after the training, I will be able to take this back and make a plan with Carleen.”

Cici Schnieder, a senior, majoring in non-profit organizational leadership, at Dakota Wesleyan University, attended the training with several colleagues from campus student ministries. “The training was fun and informative,” said Schnieder. “I have always had it in my heart to volunteer after a disaster. I hope we can get a group together from DWU to go.”

Photo: Cici Schieder, second from the right, works with group members during the ERT training.

Kropenske, a retired professor of public health nursing, has been involved in disaster relief work since Hurricane Kartrina. She and husband, Rev. John Jacoway, retired, have travelled to Missouri, Mississippi, Minnesota, Texas and Louisiana to assist after disasters. “We both have a passion for this work. It is something that we both feel called to do,” said Linda.

After being on the ground for several disaster relief efforts, she wondered what else she could do. Kropenske discovered that she could become a trainer for ERT teams.  She headed to Duluth, Minnesota for a “train the trainer session” for UMCOR ERT trainers. She also connected with the North Central Jurisdiction disaster relief efforts at a meeting in Iowa. “I have conduced three ERT training sessions—one in Ohio, one in Huron, South Dakota and this one in Mitchell.  I am willing and ready to do more.”

Linda just returned from the Rio Conference in Texas where she spent time helping set up the volunteer management system. “The Rio Conference is now calling for ERT teams to help people move onto the the next stage of recovery.”

Respond in other ways

Hurricane Harvey mission trip—scholarships available: Sign up for the mission trip to Texas over Thanksgiving. Rev. Mark Johnsen, Prairieview UMC, is organizing a mission trip to southeast Texas November 19-26. The current plan is to leave Sunday afternoon, November 19 and return Sunday, November 26.  Johnsen states, “We are preparing to take both a 14-passenger bus and a 15-passenger van if the number of participants require.” Click here for more information.

2017 Thanksgiving offering—Bishop Ough encourages all United Methodists across the Dakotas to participate in the 2017 Thanksgiving appeal. "Our neighbors in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and beyond are crying out. We see it on our televisions, on the internet and on social media. The Lord hears their cries and is calling us to serve as His hands and feet to deliver them from their troubles. We will dedicate our annual Dakotas Conference Thanksgiving Offering to United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) recovery efforts." Click here to read Bishop Ough’s letter and to get resources for your church.