Checking out the trailer

From left, Al Miller, N.C. Director of Disaster Ministries with the United Methodist Church, Greg Ellis, program manager of U.S. Disaster Response with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Greg Ehrler, site supervisor of the UMC Disaster Response Center in Newport, and Cliff Harvell, director of assessment and interagency collaboration, check out the disaster response trailer Tuesday at the Newport center. (Cheryl Burke photo)

CORRECTION: This article was last updated Aug. 23, 2019, at 11:12 a.m. to provide new contact information for disaster response officials with N.C. Conference United Methodist Church.

NEWPORT — National leaders with a disaster response group that is helping families recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence visited the county Tuesday to encourage volunteers and see what additional help is needed.

Greg Ellis, program manager of U.S. Disaster Response with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and others toured the N.C. Conference United Methodist Church Disaster Response Center in Newport.

The organization set up the center last year in the Community Life Center of St. James United Methodist Church in response to the many area families seeking help with repairs and recovery following the Category I hurricane that caused widespread flooding and wind damage Sept. 13-14.

The NCCUMC and UMCOR have set up 14 disaster centers in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina, according to Mr. Ellis, whose office is in Atlanta, Ga.

“We wanted to check in and see how things are going at our local centers and see how we as a national church body can help the local centers,” Mr. Ellis said. “We can share information with our workers, but we might also learn something from them we can share with our other centers across the nation. They might be doing something here that could help our centers in California or Louisiana. Learning is a two-way street.”

Mr. Ellis, along with Cathy Earl, director of disaster response and U.S. partner relations with UMCOR, are spending this week touring some of the area centers. The group arrived Tuesday in Newport, then planned to tour a center Wednesday in Wilmington.

Mr. Ellis also came to share that UMCOR is providing a $6.4 million grant to help with hurricane relief efforts in North Carolina. A portion of those funds will be used in Carteret County.

Mr. Ellis said the grant will provide up to $10,000 per house the organization serves.

“The money can go toward repairs and whatever else is needed. A family might need bedding, pots, pans…it can be used for all of that,” Mr. Ellis said.

While the national organization oversees the centers, Mr. Ellis said he likes to give local control to each facility’s staff.

“We try to keep management as local as possible because they know the people,” Mr. Ellis said.

Greg Ehrler of Beaufort, site supervisor for the Newport center, said he was excited to have the national team visit. He added that since opening the center, volunteers from 35 states have stayed in the county to help repair homes damaged by the storm.

So far, volunteers have completed construction on 24 homes. They are currently working on 11 homes and have three homes ready for construction. They have 183 requests pending. In addition, the team’s case manager has assisted 36 families with other needs.

“Right now we’re helping two disabled vets and that’s a true honor,” he said.

Those in need of help can call 1-888-440-9167 or email disaster@nccumc.org.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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