Empowering Students to Contribute to Hurricane… | UMC YoungPeople
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September 2017

Empowering Students to Contribute to Hurricane Relief

By Neal Bowes

Giving teens a way to get their hands dirty in responding to disasters like Hurricane Harvey is absolutely essential. Far too often churches relegate the hands on helping to the adults and miss the power of harnessing the passion of students.

What do you do? How do we help channel our students in our churches to make a difference in the lives of those recovering from this tragedy? One word: UMCOR.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief, always in a state of readiness, sprang into action, responding with cleaning kits, formerly known as “flood buckets,” stored in locations around the country. The Committee will distribute funding with 100% efficiency. (Every dollar you give goes directly to those in need; administrative costs come out of the Church’s annual budget.) UMCOR will be doing case management work and organizing volunteer groups for years to come.

More cleaning kits will be needed than what we had on hand, and we need to replenish the supply to be prepared for other events, too. So, here’s how your church can get your whole community involved in an easy and practical way.

The cleaning kit consists of 16 items: laundry detergent, household cleaner, dish soap, air freshener, insect repellent, a scrub brush, cleaning wipes, sponges, scouring pads, clothespins, clothesline, trash bags, dust masks, cleaning gloves, and work gloves, all packages in a 5-gallon bucket. It’s a very practical kits, but it’s also a substantially long shopping list for somebody who will also have to pay retail markup and tax.

Take It to the Next Level: Get Your Whole Community Involved

Why not partner with your local hardware store? Let them know you’re not looking for a donation, but a partnership. Ask them to supply the items at their cost. Then, appeal to your community to sponsor a bucket. Sponsoring is a lot easier than shopping, and with wholesale prices, you can almost buy 2 for the price of 1. Your church brings the credibility of UMCOR, so people know their donation will be well used, and the hardware store gets some free advertising and the good will of the community.

It would be difficult for a transaction at the hardware store to be classified as a charitable contribution, but our church has the ability to process credit cards online. So, we have taken to the town’s Facebook page with a link to the form on our website. The local newspaper is running an article about it, and we are using every Email list we can and encouraging people to talk it up in their other clubs and organizations, too. We’ll run the campaign to sponsor kits for three weeks and then order all the supplies from the hardware store, which we’ll pay for with our tax-exempt number.

The plan is for our youth groups to get together and assemble all the kits. That is, unless, we are overwhelmed with the number sponsorships. In that case, we’ll partner with some scout troops and other organizations. We expect to ship our kits to the nearest hub by the end of the month. (If you don’t know the location of your nearest hub, your Conference office can help you.)

Here are a couple of bonus tips:

  • Accepting credit cards online can be set up pretty easily with PayPal or a similar service.
  • Our online form works great on a smartphone.
  • Our hardware store has created a display right up front with the bucket and all the supplies.
  • We are keeping track of the sponsorships and ordering in lots of 50 so that the hardware store doesn’t overwhelm their suppliers.
  • You will reach people and engage them in mission, even though they’ll never come to worship in your church.
Neal has had the privilege of being in ministry with the youth at Jesse Lee for the last 15 years. He also works through the New York Annual Conference to train and support volunteer youth workers in local churches. He loves speaking at youth gatherings--group retreats or conference-wide events. www.NealBowes.com