Debris removal teams needed in Florida
Oct. 26, 2005
|Web-only photo courtesy of the Florida Annual Conference
A piece from Miami Lakes United Methodist Church, on Florida’s east coast, rests on the church lawn.
LAKELAND, Fla. (UMNS) — The Florida Conference of the United
Methodist Church is responding to the needs of both coasts of South
Florida impacted by Hurricane Wilma.
The conference’s Storm Recovery Center telephone volunteers are
coordinating offers of help and distribution of donated supplies.
In cooperation with the Florida Annual (regional) Conference, the
United Methodist Committee on Relief has been working on long-term
recovery in the affected areas since the 2004 hurricane season, which
pummeled Florida with repeated storms.
Hurricane Wilma, which struck Oct. 24, not only caused damage from
the state’s west to east coast but left several million people without
power. Citizens formed lines at gasoline stations and at centers
distributing ice, water and food.
Reports indicate areas around Lake Okeechobee, parts of the Florida
Keys and Broward County, including the Fort Lauderdale area, were
South of Okeechobee, members of First United Methodist Church of
Clewiston spent Oct. 25 mopping up and stabilizing homes, according to
the Rev. John Hicks, the church’s pastor.
Hicks said many of the streets that flooded have been pumped out, but
there’s major storefront damage as well as downed trees and power lines
throughout the community.
|A Web-only photo by the Rev. John Hicks
The neighborhood of Clewiston in the center of South Florida lies flooded after Hurricane Wilma.
"Clewiston was in the hurricane eye, and when it shifted, we had
tornadoes and much destruction. Several of our gas stations had their
pumps blown away by the winds," Hicks said. "Many of those in trailers
had significant damage if not devastation. (There’s) no power — some
have no water. The sugar cane is flattened, and the trees are
The church and parsonage were also damaged. Church windows were
broken, and the roof of the office now leaks. At the parsonage, an
awning and columns on the front entryway were blown off.
"There’s major tree damage. The sanctuary and my office were flooded, so we are wading through that right now," Hicks said.
The day was also spent doing "first aid" for mental stress. Hicks
said most everyone in the 6,000-member community was affected, and many
people needed to share their stories. He said they talked about "wind
howling, windows busting out, coming back to their home and finding the
roof off their trailer."
"As our congregations and pastors contact us about the hurricane’s
dramatic impact in their communities, we realize that debris removal
teams are urgently needed now," said Marilyn Swanson, the storm center’s
director. "Power is gradually being restored in many areas. People are
digging out, and they need help to grapple with the devastating effects
of the wind."
The Rev. Dennis Redstone said his community of Lighthouse Point,
located about nine miles north of Ft. Lauderdale and four miles from
Boca Raton, "is a real mess" and may not have power for two weeks.
"Trees are everywhere, power lines are everywhere, roads are blocked," he said.
Redstone is pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church. He said the
church’s preschool sustained the most damage, with the roof "peeled off"
and three rooms and the roof of the walkway to the school gutted. The
steeple was also damaged, with the copper sheeting blown away, along
with some sheds. In addition, the church sign was damaged, windows were
broken and aluminum siding had fallen off.
So far, 30 churches have reported damages, ranging from broken
windows and fences, leaks and downed trees to flooding in sanctuaries
and portions of roofs collapsed. Most of those churches are on the east
coast of the state and further inland.
"We do know that we have damage ranging from the west coast near the
Naples area, across the state and over to the southeast coast," Swanson
said. "Some of our South Florida neighbors are reeling from repeated
hurricane visits and will appreciate any help individuals can give us."
Volunteers are ready to accept offers of help on the storm center’s
toll-free line, (800) 282-8011, Ext. 149. At this point, the center is
recommending that volunteer teams be "self-contained," since housing and
supplies are in short supply.
"Please consider bringing your early response teams to Florida," Swanson said.
According to Hicks, the Clewiston area needs chainsaws, crews and
"bucket brigades" because "those who have chainsaws are up to their ears
in their own problems."
The Keys are a part of the South East District, which is still being
assessed for damage. The Rev. Debbie McLeod, district superintendent,
spent Oct. 25 visiting churches and communities in Broward County, which
sustained the most damage. She said 98 percent of the district is
Bob Ladner, the district’s disaster response coordinator, was
responsible for contacting churches in the Miami-Dade area. He said a
few had significant damage, including his own church, Palm Springs
United Methodist Church in Hialeah, where he serves as local pastor.
One issue for the district is damage from multiple hurricanes.
Katrina damaged some churches, like Redlands Community United Methodist
Church in Homestead, and Wilma "made it all worse," according to Ladner.
The Rev. David Harris, disaster response coordinator for the South
West District, said the major issue there is power outages, particularly
in Naples, Fort Myers and Immokalee. Distribution points for supplies
are being set up at Englewood and Cornerstone United Methodist churches
to serve the inland areas, which Harris said seem to have suffered the
Details on how to help are available from the Florida Conference’s Web site, http://www.flumc.org.
Donations to assist with clean-up and recovery after Hurricane Wilma
can be made to UMCOR Advance #982523, "Hurricanes 2005." Checks can be
placed in local church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at
P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068. Credit card donations can be
made by calling (800) 554-8583.
Information for this report was provided by Tita Parham, managing
editor of the e-Review, Florida United Methodist News Service and
Florida United Methodist Communications.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.