UMS aids in recovery for Wilmington, North Carolina

 For some students, winter break means relaxing, after the long hours of school work and spending time with family. However, several students with the campus ministry United Methodist Students, UMS, spent their break differently. 

Eleven students traveled with UMS to Wilmington, North Carolina on a mission trip to help residents rebuild after Hurricane Florence swept through the area in the summer. The hurricane, which formed in August of 2018 and dropped 26.58 inches of water on Wilmington, was the “wettest tropical cyclone on record in the Carolinas,” according to the National Weather Service. Due to this amount of water, communities in both states are still trying to recover. 

UMS students spent a week working on homes that had been destroyed due to the hurricane. 

“They had five or six houses they wanted us to work on,” Jacob Thomas, a UMS intern and history graduate student, said. “A lot of it was insulation, hanging drywall and hanging new doors.” 

UMS worked with the North Carolina United Methodist Conference to rebuild the homes. Thomas said the mission trip was different from others UMS had gone on before, because the group was the first to work at the new site. 

“Most of the mission trips we go on, when we get there, they have all the tools for us and the supplies, and they have teams already there or have been there,” Thomas said. “This site was brand new. It had been created at least a month before, and they didn’t really have that stuff ready for us, so we went out and bought it with the site coordinator.”

With UMS being the first to work on the site, there was plenty of work to be done.

“Over the course of this trip, we split into groups and helped out four families,” Sara Moreno, a sophomore forensic chemistry major, said. “My particular group spent most of the week tearing down the bits of leftover drywall on the ceilings, putting in new insulation in those ceilings, and then we put up new drywall on the ceilings.”

Moreno said that this mission trip was different from another she went on due to the physical work. Along with this, Moreno said that the resident’s reactions to their homes, and the UMS community, made this trip special for her. 

“So, I have two favorite parts of mission trips,” Moreno said. “One of them is the reaction people have when they finally get what they have been waiting for, whether it be a ceiling in their bedroom, like on this past trip, or food to take home to their families, like on my first trip. The reaction people have makes working hard all week worth it. My other favorite part is being with the people of UMS. Over these trips, there is so much laughter, and it just makes me happy.”

UMS plans to travel back down to Wilmington over spring break to continue the work they started. Thomas said that, after the organization sees how many spots are available, they will open the trip up to anyone on campus. 

Along with their gatherings on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. in the Campus Christian Center, UMS also has a local recovery team that students are able to get involved with. The Thundering Herd Recovery Team works in Huntington and surrounding areas to provide help to those who need it. This semester, Thomas said the group has several volunteering opportunities planned. 

“We have plans to contact a couple of organizations,” Thomas said. “We have a group that is going to Beaver, West Virginia to help organize flood buckets.” 

For individuals seeking more information about the spring break mission trip or the Thundering Herd Recovery team, UMS’s campus minister Ben Wells can be contacted at [email protected].

Meredith O’Bara can be contacted at [email protected].