By Laura Allen*
CHARLESTON, W. Va. — People in the West Virginia Annual (regional) Conference continue to dig out from the aftermath of a weather event so powerful it’s simply referred to as “Sandy.”
About 140,000 people remained without power Thursday afternoon in West Virginia. Several high mountain counties in the eastern part of the state remain covered in snow, making travel difficult at best.
In the Randolph County town of Mill Creek, Tyrand Cooperative Ministries, opened its bunkhouse as an emergency shelter Monday. “We have no power in most of the county,” said Belinda Toms, the director. “But we have a generator, and are prepared.”
Toms said that Tyrand’s bunkhouse has been housing about 20 people and has served several hundred meals since Monday. “Our volunteers have been great, and a couple of schools have given us food,” she said. “Pray for us!”
Tyrand Cooperative Ministries is one of seven mission projects affiliated with the West Virginia Conference.
After hearing about a student that spent the night in his car, the Rev. Angela Gay Kinkead decided to open Wesley Chapel in Buckhannon for students to have a warm place to sleep. Kinkead is dean of the chapel at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
“When we made that offer, the college decided that they really needed to develop a plan for housing commuter students in an emergency,” she said. “They told students to know they will have a place here in situation like this, regardless of whether they pay room and board.”
Wesleyan never lost power, which meant that classes continued and an open cafeteria. “It’s a miracle we didn’t lose power,” said Kinkead.
Just down the road, Chapel Hill United Methodist Church has functioned as an official Red Cross Shelter since Tuesday morning. The Rev. Alicia Rapking has worked with Red Cross officials throughout the week. “We’ve served about 75 meals, three times a day, since Tuesday morning,” she said. The church has been home for about 55 people since Tuesday night.
Rapking directs the Upshur Parish House, another mission project affiliated with the Conference. “Our food pantry has just been cleaned out,” she said. “And next week, we begin our Thanksgiving feeding ministry.”
Mission projects and churches are gearing up for a busy time of year in terms of serving and distributing food. This storm comes on the heels of a year in which they have been repeatedly pushed into disaster response. A June 29 windstorm, or derecho, cut power to large parts of the state for more than week.
“Two big disasters in three months — it’s a lot,” said Belinda Toms. “We will need help.”
You can contact the mission projects affiated with the West Virginia Conference at wvumc.org/missions. Gifts to the Conference Disaster Fund from individuals and churches may be sent to:
WV Conference, the United Methodist Church
PO Box 2469, Charleston, WV 25329
*Allen is the communicator for the West Virginia Annual (regional) Conference.