Sager Brown was established in 1998 as the regional depot for relief-supply operations for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Sager Brown is located in Baldwin, Louisiana. Each year, more than 2000 volunteers attend Sager Brown to prepare about $4 million in supplies for shipment to provide care for the most vulnerable people during times of crisis. Volunteers assemble health kits, sewing kits, school kits, bedding kits, birthing kits, and cleaning bucket (kits). Many supplies are donated by people from across the United States. UMCOR uses monetary donations to purchase other items in bulk for the kits.
Since 1940, UMCOR has served people in almost 100 countries around the world. The organization is designed such that 100% of all donations are channeled directly to the specific relief efforts. Because UMCOR does not spend money on advertising, the organization is not as well known as the American Red Cross or Catholic Charities. Individuals can contribute to UMCOR through any local United Methodist Church or online at www.UMCOR.org.
UMCOR has recently responded to hurricane disasters in the United States, including Sandy and Irene. Gilmer native, Karen Monk, is a United Methodist minister serving the Catskills, New York. Her community was severely damaged by Hurricane Irene. Following that disaster, she told members of FUMC-Gilmer that the supplies from UMCOR were essential to her area’s recovery. Also, UMCOR sent relief supplies to the 2004 tsunami in South East Asia, earthquakes in Turkey and Pakistan, political upheaval in Kosovo, famines in Southern and Eastern Africa, a volcanic eruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the earthquake in Haiti. UMCOR also responds to many other smaller disasters that occur, on average, once or more a week.
Volunteers who attend a workweek at Sager Brown spend most of their work time assembling, verifying and packing relief kits so that the supplies can be sent to where they are needed most. The verification process is particularly important, to ensure that the assembled kits meet the strict standards required for foreign distribution. All relief kits sent out of the United States must contain exactly what their labels state. Any deviation – even something as simple as a single extra Band-Aid – can cause the entire shipment to be confiscated.
During their stay in Baldwin, volunteers also reach out to the local community, distributing food, and working on service projects to help local families and the elderly. Deana Hastings, a volunteer at Sager Brown since 2008, said, “It was a hard-working, fun week.”