Posted by: mollyrossiter | March 4, 2009

Flood volunteers need a place to stay

Volunteers wanting to come to Cedar Rapids to help with flood recovery may be turned away if local organizers can’t find places for them to stay.

“We really need the help of other facilities soon,” said the Rev. Melisa Bracht-Wagner, Iowa United Methodist Disaster Volunteer Coordinator.

First United Methodist Church in Marion, where Bracht-Wagner serves as associate pastor, is home to the Flood Recovery Office of the United Methodist Church. It is also one of a handful of churches in Marion and Cedar Rapids thath as played host to volunteers since the Cedar River flooded in June. At her flood recovery office alone, more than 2,100 volunteers registered to help last year and needed a place to stay. Her office registered a total of 263 teams over the last nine months.

As organizers gear up for more help, she said, space is again at a premium.

Bracht-Wagner said she has teams signed up to start as early as March 15 but if she can’t get at least three more churches or schools to serve as host sites she may have to turn as many as 45 volunteers away.

“All of my facilities are full and sometimes we double up, but we try not to do that,” she said. “Teams are generally more comfortable if they can stay in a place by themselves, something that has showers nearby.”

Volunteers played an instrumental role in cleaning and gutting the hundreds of homes and businesses damaged by flooding last year, she said. That cycle looks to repeat itself this year as teams are actively rebuilding 21 homes.

Bracht-Wagner has 606 volunteers registered to come to the area this month, with another 654 in April. That number dips to 365 in May but then jumps to 1,915 in June and 1,357 in July.

“Currently we have 15 sleeping facilities and in June we have 23,” Bracht-Wagner said. “This simply is not enough to accommodate the number of volunteers registering. Unless we get additional sleeping facilities with access to showers and cooking equipment our office (the Flood Recovery Office in Marion and the East Central Iowa Volunteer Center) will have to turn teams away.

Bracht-Wagner said teams pay $10 per night per person — $4 goes to the church to help with toilet paper and utilities, $2 goes to help with showers and the remaining $4 is used to help purchase materials needed for the work site.

For more information on serving as a host site, contact Bracht-Wagner at


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