Dec. 12 update: Treasurer's office reports total $70,377 has been received for Holston Conference wildfire response.
ALCOA, Tenn. (Dec. 9, 2016) -- Whenever people donate money for a good cause, they want to know it’s going directly to help people who need it most.
Five United Methodist churches at the center of Gatlinburg fire destruction just received a total $40,000 from donations made to Holston Conference, empowering them to take care of survivors' needs in a hurry.
From donations made to Holston and designated for “wildfire,” three grants of $5,000 each were made to:
From donations made to “Change for Children” throughout the year, five grants of $5,000 each were made to:
“We know the local churches know what the needs are,” said the Rev. Michael Sluder, director of connectional ministries. “We wanted to get some money into the hands of the pastors and say, ‘You go be the church and meet those needs.’”
The Holston Conference Children’s Ministry Team also wanted to immediately aid five local churches that are trying to help families displaced by the Sevier County fires. The team gave a special $25,000 grant from the Change for Children Fund, said Gaye King, associate director of connectional ministries.
The Change for Children fund is collected from Holston churches all year long and at Annual Conference. Half of the funds are designated for children in Africa, while the other half helps children in Holston.
The Children’s Ministry Team also reached out to local churches near the sites of the Nov. 30 tornadoes in Cleveland District, King said. “We have invited churches directly ministering to children impacted by the storms … to apply for a special grant as well.”
Within hours after the wildfires ravaged Gatlinburg and other parts of Sevier County, United Methodist pastors and church members in the immediate area were providing shelter for evacuees, Sluder said.
Since then, Sevier County congregations have been feeding people as well as providing furniture, baby supplies, and cookware for the newly homeless.
Burnett Memorial UMC has been involved in helping students and families of Phi Beta Phi Elementary School, which was damaged by the fire, King said.
“While there are many needs that will arise as a result of these wildfires and storms,” King said, “the Change for Children Fund hopes to help provide local churches with resources they need to be in ministry with these children – especially at Christmas and in the coming months ahead.”
Churches nearest to the Gatlinburg fire destruction have also received direct donations from the public and from other United Methodist churches all over the nation.
Give to Holston wildfire relief fund
$31,485 received for fire relief (The Call, 12.6.16)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.