Relief-Supply Network Reaches Multitudes


By Susan Kim*, courtesy of UMCOR Sager Brown Depot

When UMCOR West Office and Depot first opened in fall 2009, gusting winds temporarily knocked the power out to the warehouse. Unfortunately, the lights went out just when the Rev. Brian Diggs, director of UMCOR West, was giving a tour of the new facility.

“I found a lantern, and I led the group through the warehouse to the break room, where there was a window, so they could have some light,” recalled Diggs. He then left to fetch his cell phone.

When he returned, the group had placed the lantern in the middle of the 22,000-square-foot warehouse. “And do you know,” said Diggs, “that little light illuminated the entire warehouse.”

More than three years later, Diggs still tells this story because, to him, it's symbolic of what transpires when one person assembles one relief-supply kit. Those individual efforts—working through all seven depots of the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network across the nation—end up lighting up thousands of lives, both within the United States and internationally.

“I use that story to show people how much just one relief kit helps,” said Diggs.

The sheer numbers of kits that UMCOR delivers annually is evidence of a caring, connected United Methodist Church that is determined to deliver relief at the crucial hour of need.

The Relief-Supply Network is headquartered at UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La. There, Kathy Kraiza, executive director of UMCOR’s Material Resources Ministry, coordinates the distribution of hundreds of thousands of kits, operating with all the grace and complexity of a dance choreographer.

In some ways, the impressive statistics tell the story. In 2012, UMCOR's Relief-Supply Network shipped more than $6 million worth of goods and materials to people in need worldwide. Nearly $2 million worth of goods went to 18 different U.S. states.

Worldwide, shipping totals in 2012 were:

227,869 health kits

71,160 school kits

27,268 cleaning buckets

8,549 sewing kits

14,506 layette kits

464 bedding kits

34,280 clean birthing kits

Given the amount of kits being distributed, what does the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network need most? Health kits, schools kits, and cleaning buckets, said Kraiza, though every kind of kit will be used by someone who is truly in need.

During the past five years, Kraiza has overseen a dynamic, expanding Relief-Supply Network that is more effective than ever. When Hurricane Sandy struck last October, member depots were not only ready to deploy supplies on behalf of The United Methodist Church, they also were working with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) to help meet needs through other organizations responding to Sandy.

“We are more connected than we've ever been,” said Kraiza. “With the Hurricane Sandy relief, everybody in the network and beyond—including NVOAD—was connecting with us, and it flowed so well.”

There are many ways you can help. You can assemble kits with your local congregation or community and send them to any of the depots in the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network. Or volunteer to assemble and inspect kits at UMCOR Sager Brown Depot or UMCOR West Office and Depot.

Gifts to Material Resources Ministry, UMCOR Advance #901440, will help purchase supplies and replenish stocks of kits. Gifts may also be given to Contain Your Joy, UMCOR Advance #982730, to support shipments of kits to people in need.

*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to