PNW Conference obtains $100K UMCOR grant for wildfire recovery

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Photo provided by Dana & Kathy Bryson

Recovery efforts from devastating wildfires in the state of Washington will be ramped up significantly in 2021 thanks to a $100,000 recovery grant the Pacific Northwest Conference received from United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

“This sets us solidly on the path to do some significant work and we just feel blessed,” said Dana Bryson, who is the co-disaster response coordinator with his wife Kathy Bryson for the PNW Conference.

The recovery grant will be used to assist the long-term recovery group to help communities devastated by the Okanagan, Douglas and Ferry County fires in northcentral Washington begin to fill many unmet needs that just keep piling up.

Dana Bryson said the grant was written so that it can be added onto, which means they hope to support the Pine Creek Community Restoration long term recovery group working in Malden and Pine City recover after nearly 80 percent of their buildings were leveled in the fires that roared through the dry, hot, and windy conditions in eastern Washington.

Photo provided by Dana & Kathy Bryson

In many of the communities which stood in the pathway of some of the most devastating wildfires in recent history in Washington, UMCOR case managers and long-term recovery groups work with the uninsured and underinsured who lost everything to help pick up the pieces.

“(This grant) is basically designed to help survivors move to the next phase of their life,” said Kathy Bryson.

In addition to providing recovery funding, the grant also funds UMCOR case management training, which the Brysons said is critical for volunteers and case managers who will be working with survivors. Just last week, eight trainees began the UMCOR case management training.

“We wanted to get the ball rolling and get in early,” Dana Bryson said.

In the emergency response world, where volunteers from a variety of agencies are trying to provide services, Kathy Bryson said UMCOR brings credibility to the work.

While a long-term recovery group is already in place in the Okanagan area (created after wildfires ripped through the area in 2014 and 2015), the long-term recovery group is still being pieced together in Malden and Pine City.

“Everyone there is a survivor,” Kathy Bryson said.

The PNW Conference benefited from two $10,000 UMCOR solidarity grants that helped with immediate response in communities while the wildfires were raging, in addition to UMCOR hygiene kits, cleaning kits, ash sifters, and school supplies for children. Additionally, the Brysons were able to secure a $10,000 AmeriCares grant which supported primarily Spanish-speaking farm laborers displaced and distraught by the wildfires.

Long-term recovery is expected to take four to five years, which is why the Brysons are thankful to have the ability to leverage the $100,000 UMCOR grant into more resources.

As disaster response stewards for the PNW Conference, the Brysons are grateful to have received significant additional disaster response donations from local church giving to help with targeted wildfire disaster response. At least $30,000 of these funds will be used in direct support of the current UMCOR recovery grant. Advance #352 funds are also being used to help with survivor needs because of the flooding that happened in February in the Blue Mountain area in southeastern Washington.

“Our congregations have been incredibly generous,” Dana Bryson said.

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