First United Methodist Church of Seal Beach wanted to mark the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 by honoring and remembering the victims, and pray for those family members, friends and colleagues affected by that terrible day.
“I felt marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was important, but in a way that could help families in the future,” said Rev. Tia Wildermuth, pastor of First United Methodist Church, or First Church (www.firstchurchsealbeach.org) as it’s known locally.
“Clergy are often the first to provide counsel to surviving family members. We see first-hand that when tragedy strikes, survivors are at a loss and often need financial and material assistance, especially if the loss is a home or property,” she said.
In past years First Church held memorials and vigils to honor the memory of those lost and pray for healing of those who remain. On the 20th anniversary, the challenge was how to honor this past while helping someone in the future.
“In the Methodist Church, a core tenet of our faith is ‘Do Good,’” Rev. Wildermuth said. “We hoped in some small way that it would honor those lost on 9/11 if we could find a way to help other loved ones in the immediate aftermath of some future tragic event, the way so many came together to help the surviving family members of the 9/11 attacks.”
In planning how best to honor their memory, yet mindful of an ongoing need for ways to aid regional residents who suffer unexpected tragedy and loss, Rev. Wildermuth and church leadership had an idea. A common issue is surviving family members need help and aid immediately after their unexpected loss. They often lack the tools and resources, especially after a tragic event that affects many families at the same time.
“We’re a small congregation 3,000 miles from Ground Zero. Our prayers make a spiritual contribution, but to help in a material way I thought we should try to help those area residents who would be in need when hit by tragedy,” she said.
Rev. Wildermuth and the First Church leadership agreed to create something that would help future local victims of tragedy should the need arise. In Southern California, the most common unexpected tragedy to befall families is the loss of homes and property caused by wildfires.
Working with Bay Hardware, First Church used donated funds to order supplies creating 45 Fire Recovery Buckets. Each bucket contains coveralls, a hand spade and hand hoe, disposable gloves, leather work gloves, disinfectant wipes, heavy duty trash bags, duct tape, soot sponges, utility knife and N95 dust masks.
Church volunteers gathered on Saturday, Sept 11, 2021, to honor those lost in the attacks, and assemble the 45 Fire Relief Buckets. In attendance were members of the church and community. Before beginning assembling the buckets. Greg Fellers, who is a member of the Emergency Response Teams (ERT) and Disaster Task Force for the California Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church, Let the volunteers know how the buckets would be distributed and that each one will make a difference for a family in need. Then Pastor Wildermuth lead the group in prayer remembering 9/11. Assembly began and in little less than an hour 45 Fire Relief Buckets were completed.
The Fire Relief Buckets will be stored in Southern California and distributed by the Emergency Response Teams and Disaster Task Force for the California Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church. The ERT works closely with United Methodist Committee on Relief – UMCOR, an emergency response aid organization providing emergency relief and volunteers without any restrictions on faith or denomination. UMCOR provided more than $1.1 million in relief funds to 9/11 victims families in 2001. Locally UMCOR coordinates donations of money, time, and resources in relief of victims of various Southern California tragedies.
“We hope that in our way, we honor those who fell by helping survivors of future tragedies,” said Wildermuth.