CHHSM Digging More Deeply With UCC Disaster Ministries

A new partnership is emerging between the United Church of Christ’s 400 health and human service organizations and UCC Disaster Ministries, in hopes of broadening the UCC’s preparedness, response and long-term recovery whenever and wherever disasters happen.

In a March 3 appeal letter, UCC Disaster Ministries began asking CHHSM ministries to identify individuals within their organizations willing to join existing UCC Conference Disaster Teams (CDC), or perhaps forming their own CDC if none already exists.

“Recognizing the unique role that CHHSM member agencies play in community resilience, we strongly encourage you and your staff to be a part of this ministry,” reads the letter being sent to each CHHSM ministry and signed by Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO; the Rev. Rich Pleva, Iowa Conference Minister and chair of the UCC Council of Conference Ministers; the Rev. James Moos, Executive Minister of Wider Church Ministries; and Zach Wolgemuth, Executive of UCC Disaster Ministries.

“By specializing in preparedness and long-term recovery we are able leverage resources in appropriate ways that support communities in preparing for and responding to destruction and loss,” the invitation says.

Wogemuth attended the 2017 CHHSM Annual Meeting, March 2-4, in Milwaukee, in order to talk with CHHSM-member ministries about how they might get more involved in their respective UCC Conference Disaster Team.

Several CHHSM-member ministries already see the need to join the wider church’s disaster recovery efforts.

United Church Homes & Services (UCHS) many, many years ago used to partner with local churches on mission trips to assist with disaster recovery,” said Lee Syria, president and CEO of the North Carolina-based provider of senior services. “Recently, my team and I met with Jon Wallace, the appointed Disaster Coordinator of the UCC’s Southern Conference to discuss ways in which could collaborate going forward.”

Syria met with Wolgemuth at the CHHSM Annual Meeting, and shared with him about UCHS’ recent meeting with Wallace in the Southern Conference.

“UCHS continues to do this type of outreach because it only makes sense to try to combine efforts to have a more meaningful and widespread impact when there is a need,” Syria said, indicating that during recent wildfires in western North Carolina, UCHS was a collection site for needed supplies for firefighters.

Another CHHSM-member ministry, United Church Homes, based in Marion, Ohio, also sees the need to participate fully in the UCC’s wider disaster efforts.

“When the One Great Hour of Sharing Disaster Response Team in the Ohio Conference put out a plea for resupplying clean up kits and personal hygiene packs, I shared this request with our office manager at United Church Homes’ Central Office and she sprang into action,” said the Rev. Kenneth Daniel, UCH’s president and CEO. “We challenged the staff who collected and assembled more than 50 clean up kits and another 50 hygiene packs, which we delivered to the conference disaster response coordinator.  Our donations along with the churches of the Northwestern Ohio Association filled a small box truck!”

Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO, says the partnership makes perfect sense because CHHSM ministries see themselves, and want to be seen by others, as integral to the life of whole United Church of Christ.

“CHHSM ministries are not merely an ‘extension’ of the church; CHHSM is the church in action,” Readinger said. “To the extent that the wider church is supporting disaster preparedness and long-term recovery, CHHSM wants to be supportive to the fullest extent we can be.”

CHHSM ministries interested in more information on how to get involved with UCC Disaster Ministries, contact Zach Wolgemuth at 

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