Story and pictures by Laura Bray
Pardon us for a minute while we chat about, well…..showers. Many churches have a few spare rooms to house volunteers, plenty of toilets, and even a kitchen for meal preparation. But one hosting requirement remains elusive—a place for volunteers to bathe. One or two showers located near a gym/multi-purpose room just doesn’t meet the need for the number of volunteers required. We bridge that gap with portable shower trailers.
Usually, a shower trailer starts out as a typical commercial pull-behind panel trailer; it’s then converted to its special purpose. The disaster response team from the California Pacific Conference in southern California recently built one.
“Our church in Ontario already had two trailers for disaster recovery,” said Judy Lewis. “On a trip to Maryland, we used this great big lovely shower trailer loaned from a Virginia conference and thought, ‘we want one of these!’ It took us a while to raise the funds, find the builders, electricians, and plumbers, and get the thing working.”
The trailer vendor installed a 50-amp electrical box, lowered the floor, raised the ceiling, added extra insulation, and added a skylight for the air conditioner. Volunteers installed the four shower stalls, two sinks, and the two sets of washer/dryers. “After Hurricane Harvey, the call went out to determine which conferences had which assets to loan,” said Judy. “We offered our shower trailer. We and the Desert Southwest Conference sent teams to south Texas for seven straight weeks last fall. One of our early teams brought the shower trailer, hooked it up, and loaned it to First UMC Victoria for six months.”
Judy said southern California doesn’t experience many FEMA disasters (although they recently suffered one with the Thomas wildfire complex and accompanying mudslides). “We’re not yet ready for rebuilding here. Right now, all the work is in soil mitigation and site work after the mudslides. Should we need it, conferences in Washington and Oregon have small trailers they will loan.”
First UMC La Grange is also outfitting a trailer. “Members of the congregation will do the actual build out. We will use it for Harvey relief and any other disasters, plus other mission work and support of the MS150 cycling event,” said Bill Koenig, a church member. The Methodist Foundation provided funds for the purchase and out-fit of the trailer. A Baptist and a Lutheran church are assisting in housing volunteer teams to La Grange; the Baptist church has loaned their shower/laundry trailer until First UMC finishes theirs.
The trailer requires minimal set-up work once delivered to the site. Plumbing discharge is only “gray water” (i.e., no toilets). Local regulations vary but usually permit such drainage into an existing drain or into the ground via a perforated PVC pipe buried in a shallow trench. Heather Linville, business manager at First UMC Victoria, said, “We maintain the trailer by having it cleaned on a regular basis and refilling the propane tanks.” Power comes from extension cords run from inside the church building.
Shower trailers usually include both heat and air conditioning, so they can function in a variety of climates. They’re built and designed to sit outside in the wind and the weather for an extended period of time.
Heather expressed her appreciation for the loan. “The shower trailer is a true blessing and allows us to properly serve our volunteers during their time at the church.” Judy said, “It’s just another one of the little connectional ministries that are the strength of the Methodist church. Instead of divisiveness, it’s nice to work together.”
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”—1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)