As recovery efforts continue in the Houston area, the Caribbean and Florida, organizations are still working to heal wounds a little closer to home.
United Methodist Disaster Response’s Oklahoma team is in need of volunteers to help repair homes that were damaged in floods, storms and tornadoes from 2013 to 2015. Their website has a map that shows roughly 230 homes in Oklahoma, many in southern Oklahoma, that still require work. Disaster response supervisor Chad Detwiler said people don’t always understand the far-reaching consequences of a natural disaster.
“We keep getting phone calls from people who say ‘Hey, I want to go down to Texas and help,’ and we tell them, ‘Well, at this point in the recovery they’re not ready for you, but we have projects in Oklahoma,’ and they said ‘Oklahoma?! What happened there?’,” Detwiler said.
The gap between a natural disaster’s occurrence and the time it takes to repair a home, whether it’s water damaged, partially destroyed or had missing shingles is years long.
Unfortunately, Detwiler said, donations and disaster relief diminish quickly as the news cycle moves on and people forget.
The organization oversees the work, assigns the sites, delivers the materials and often covers the cost of the volunteers’ living expenses. Volunteers can either work as a self-sustained team, overseen by someone with construction experience, or a project managed team overseen by someone from United Methodist.
“What we offer is project management oversight,” Detwiler said. “We deliver the materials, stay and work with the team and show them how to complete the project. If the team members want to fund a job themselves, of course that’s wonderful.”
Project manager Kevin Walker said the organization can supply everything for a project except for the one thing that would speed recovery along the most: volunteers from Oklahoma.
“Most of our volunteers come from out of state and so we try to recruit local volunteers but it’s really tough. I don’t know why that is. I guess they think it doesn’t mean as much when they’re staying closer to home.”
Walker said finding volunteers locally makes many aspects of the job easier. The disaster response office doesn’t have to transport them as far or house and feed them for as long. But for whatever reason, when people volunteer, they do so out of state.
“We experienced the same thing in 2013 in Oklahoma City,” Walker said. “We had a lot of people who would come help during the cleanup, but when it comes to the skilled labor? We hardly have any volunteers from the Oklahoma area.”
 To volunteer with the disaster response office and look at available projects, visit http://oklahomaunitedmethodistchurchdisasterresponse.org/volunteer.