By Jenny Phillips
October 12, 2022 | ATLANTA
Floridians are experiencing God’s light in a new way now that United Methodist disaster response volunteers from around the Southeast have shipped, built and deployed solar energy systems in the days following Hurricane Ian. Working in partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the Florida Annual Conference and Footprint Project, the volunteers learned solar energy basics and benefits as they responded to damage from the storm.
Thanks to UMCOR grants to the Florida and North Carolina conferences, UMCOR, Footprint Project and volunteers from each conference were already planning to meet in Florida in early October for a two-day Build Power workshop to learn to build, operate and maintain their own solar generators. The training is a program of Footprint Project, a Minnesota nonprofit whose mission is to help communities #BuildBackGreener after disasters.
After Ian hit Florida, Trish Warren, Florida Conference Disaster Response Coordinator (CDRC), requested help getting power and supplies to places that needed it right away. North Georgia Conference volunteers shipped truckloads of flood buckets, tarps, plywood and cleaning supplies, as well as solar panels donated by Cherry Street Energy in Atlanta, Georgia. Footprint Project and UMCOR worked with Warren to deliver solar microgrids on loan from Tesla to places without energy. North Carolina volunteers, led by NC director of Disaster Ministries, Al Miller, met up with Footprint operations manager, Will Heegaard, ahead of the workshop to set up microgrids in the hard-hit Fort Meyers area. This is truly the United Methodist – UMCOR connection working at its best.