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Otterbein United Methodist Church is prepared with its emergency response trailer

June 28, 2013|By KAREN MAWDSLEY | kmawdsley@schurz.com

Otterbein United Methodist Church member Gary Wright was aware of the good works another congregation performed with its emergency response trailer and wanted his church to pursue a similar program.

Little did he know that within half a year and at less than $100 cost to his church’s council, his $12,000 project of assembling a trailer would become a reality.

“You make the thing and hope that you never have to use it,” Wright, 61, of Hagerstown, said Monday.

The Rev. Stephen Robison, Otterbein’s pastor, said Wright “spearheaded a task force to look at the trailer and equipment cost and offering training.”

Wright found inspiration in his brother, Cliff Wright, who served as a member of an emergency response team from Mount Nebo United Methodist Church in Boonsboro. The church sent a crew of nine certified volunteers to respond with its fully equipped trailer to an area hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Emergency response teams go in after disasters in an attempt to provide relief and support to those affected. While first responders sift through the rubble and make sure everyone is accounted for, Robison said, early response teams go in after the first responders.

“The most common thing is they’d go to a church or school that’s been heavily damaged and create a place where other volunteer teams can go and use it as a base of operations,” Robison said.

These volunteer teams can use the base as the center for more long-term disaster relief operations.

Cliff Wright encouraged his brother to get the training to be a member of an emergency response team, which he did in December 2012.

Gary Wright saw how important Cliff and his team’s efforts were, and he wanted his church, Otterbein United Methodist Church on East Franklin Street in Hagerstown, to have a similar program.

The church council gave the go-ahead for the project, putting Wright in charge. Over the next five months, Wright worked to garner support and raise money to assemble the trailer, work that was completed in mid-May.

“It was pretty cool to watch it come together,” Wright said.

They got a deal on a trailer from Trailer Depot LLC in Hagerstown, rolling away with a 16-foot dual-axle trailer, which they filled with more than 100 different types of emergency supplies, from batteries to cooking gear to a machete. The supplies accounted for much of the project’s $12,000 price tag.

Wright solicited the church congregation’s help in purchasing the equipment, with one church member donating $4,000, Wright said.

Wright also approached home improvement chain Lowe’s about possible donations. He made his pitch to Wesel Boulevard store Manager Bill Cosner.

“He called me and asked if there’s anything I could do,” Cosner said recently. “There’s just been so many national disasters recently that I thought it’d be just a really good program. Every year, the company selects Lowe’s Heroes projects, and this was one of them.”

Lowe’s donated $1,300 worth of supplies, Cosner said. That ended up being about $2,500 worth of materials, Wright said.

The company also raffled off a grill over Memorial Day weekend, giving all of the raffle ticket proceeds — $200 — to the church, Cosner said.

“I believe we ended up with less than $100 cost to the church as a result of all the donations,” Wright said.

With all of the supplies gathered, Wright and his co-project coordinator and wife, Sue, scheduled regular Tuesday work nights to assemble the trailer.

“I was real pleased with the way the whole thing came together,” Grove said.

But they couldn’t forget the human side of the spectrum. If they wanted to have teams of at least seven people ready to leave for three-day periods at any time, the church would need more certified response team members.

Training was held in May, with 45 people going through the program. Wright said he thinks there will be another training session in October.

Just a few weeks after its completion, the trailer already is in Kentucky with a group of Volunteers in Mission.

Robison said the trailer serves “double duty” because they can use it not only for emergency response efforts, but also for Volunteers in Mission trips.

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