Oregon-Idaho Conference secures $100K UMCOR grant for Blue Mountain flood recovery

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a house flooded in Blue Mountain area
Flooded home near Kooskooskie, WA. Photo by David Lopez.

More than a year after flooding severely damaged hundreds of homes in Umatilla County in northeastern Oregon, significant help from The United Methodist Church is on its way.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) approved this week a $100,000 grant to assist the Blue Mountain Region Long Term Recovery Group. Umatilla, Union and Wallowa Counties endured significant flooding in February 2020, followed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has slowed efforts to provide assistance and volunteers for the past year.

The UMCOR grant will focus in on Umatilla and the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, by providing funding for: a construction coordinator and a part-time disaster case manager, according to Dan Moseler, disaster response coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference to support home repair and debris removal.

More than 50 homes were damaged by the floods and there were more than 500 requests for support from people in these areas to multiple disaster response agencies.

Moseler said the construction manager will oversee volunteer groups which come in to do the task of debris removal and home repair. The disaster case manager helps coordinate recovery efforts by working with survivors to help them with records and making appeals to FEMA for financial support.

“(Disaster case managers) walk survivors through the administrative process,” Moseler said.

Up until recently, COVID-19 safety protocols have severely limited the ability to recruit volunteers to come into places like this and provide support, but that has been changing.

“Having a construction manager is going to make a huge difference,” said Louise Kienzle, co-coordinator for the Blue Mountain Long Term Recovery Group volunteer committee. Kienzle is a member of Hermiston First United Methodist Church.

Kienzle said so far, disaster case managers have only been able to communicate with survivors via phone or email. With a construction manager and additional part-time disaster case manager in place, visits can actually be made to the damaged home sites and plans can be developed for volunteers to come in and help rebuilding the area.

“I think we’re finally going to be able to help some people,” she said.

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