Sept. 10, 2004
A UMNS Report
By Tamie Ross*
Methodist disaster specialists are descending upon hurricane-weary
Florida with a force mightier than the multiple storms.
|A UMNS photo courtesy Michael Wacht
Hundreds of volunteers are distributing water and ice to those affected by recent hurricanes.
with clean-up supplies, food items and other essentials, these
volunteers are working to ensure every individual affected by the deadly
string of hurricanes is safe and prepared for what forecasters predict
Charley. Then Frances. And now Hurricane Ivan is clearing a path toward
some of the same communities hit so hard in recent days. The Florida
Keys evacuation order Sept. 9 began yet another round of probable trips
to shelters for millions in the coming days.
on the ground in Florida are calling upon United Methodist
congregations to help in different ways - from sending volunteers to
make needed repairs, to writing donation checks, to assembling supplies
that will help residents return to their homes.
Hazelwood, head of emergency services for the United Methodist
Committee on Relief, toured the state Sept. 9. He was struck by the
magnitude of the devastation.
we go, there’s an incredible amount of work to be done," Hazelwood
said. "Homes are flooded, people have lost all their belongings. Right
now the big issue in Palm Beach County, where I am, is that people are
without electricity. And yet there’s all this destruction and so much
stressed that volunteers would be prepared and sheltered if Ivan hits
the area. "No one will be put in harm’s way, but the fact that a third
storm is coming underscores our need even more."
watching powerful winds and seemingly unstoppable rains batter their
homes and churches, United Methodists in Florida said they’re grateful
for the chance to regroup and thankful for the help they’ve received.
his church was struck by Hurricane Frances, the Rev. David McEntire
said the damage wasn’t bad enough to stop plans for Sunday worship
services Sept. 12 - as long as Ivan didn’t interfere.
very, very anxious about Ivan," said McEntire, senior pastor at the
United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla.
church has been fortunate so far, he said. It lost about 500 ceiling
tiles and sustained other damage from Hurricane Frances, which also took
out 40 or 50 trees on the property.
church’s electricity was restored Sept. 7, but power was still out in
much of the area. "I would say 98 percent of our people lost power,"
McEntire said of the church’s 1,400 members. "It’s slowly coming back
with a food bank, the Church of the Palm Beaches has been giving out
food to people who come by and serving as a hub for distributing
supplies to other churches. McEntire’s congregation also planned to send
a church bus into neighborhoods and provide food, water and ice to the
poor and to residents unable to get out.
efforts include putting tarps on homes to dry out roofs and having
chainsaw crews clear trees off houses. "Palm Beach has a million
residents, so the need is massive," McEntire said. "This is not a time
when we need to have people come to the church so much as have the
church go to them," he said.
said he is concerned about the church’s covenant partner, Brionnes
Montoto Methodist Church in Cuba, which was hit by Hurricane Charley. In
Fort Pierce, Fla., hurricane damage caused a roof to collapse at a
Haitian ministry that McEntire helped start in 1990. He wants to send
teams to both places as soon as possible.
everywhere, but especially in Florida, are darting from the widespread
destruction to the approaching hurricane, which as of Sept. 10 was rated
as a 5 on the strength scale-the strongest rating.
anticipation is that Ivan could come in and is on a path to hit some of
the same places, like Punta Gorda," said Linda Beher, communications
director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. "So yes, there is
a race. We’re working to make sure people are safe, secure and dry so
they can withstand another big storm."
relief agency trains church members to be case workers within their
communities after disaster strikes - assessing needs, organizing
volunteers, overseeing supplies and much more. UMCOR is best known
within relief circles for its attention to detail and its staying power:
When "the chain-saw brigade" departs, UMCOR remains for months and
often years to meet long-term needs.
with the denomination’s Florida Annual (regional) Conference, UMCOR is
establishing offices to help hurricane victims. A stay of three to five
years is expected.
Methodist case managers are still working in New York with victims of
the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - three years after the fact, said
Kristin Sachen, an UMCOR staff executive.
devastation of this magnitude, and considering that some of the
communities hardest hit are some of the most economically challenged, we
have a long road ahead of us," Beher said. "We’re focusing tremendous
resources on the very vulnerable farm worker communities in Arcadia
area, and the Haitian communities are around the Fort Pierce area."
oranges and grapefruit littering the ground, many workers won’t have
jobs to sustain them through the coming months, Beher said. "We’re
expecting a lot of individuals needing help with family expenses like
rent, doctors’ bills and utilities."
How can the public help? Beher said the possibilities are limitless.
are needed to work with Florida residents, replacing windows and
repairing roofs and siding on homes. Those who can help with physical
tasks are asked to call ahead for locations and updates on a toll-free
hotline: (800) 282-8011, Ext. 149. Beher said calling first enables
coordinators to give advice on tools to bring and what volunteers should
expect in terms of work to be done.
contributions are another urgent need. Donations pay for everything
from trained disaster workers to supplies to assistance for survivors
and victims. "I can’t stress enough how important these donations are
for us," Hazelwood said. "I’m seeing at this moment the impact
individuals anywhere in the country can have."
and Hazelwood said flood buckets are critical for Floridians attempting
to return home only to find inches of standing water inside their front
doors. More than 3,000 of these 5-gallon, supply-filled buckets -
containing everything from sponges to mops to disinfectants - have been
distributed since Hurricane Charley battered the state Aug. 27.
on assembling the 5-gallon buckets can be found at umcor.org online by
clicking on the "Kits" link. Beher said this is an ideal service project
for congregations and especially children’s groups.
after folks are done writing about these triple storms, UMCOR will
still be on the scene, rebuilding," Beher said. "With this level of
destruction, the needs will go deep. We’re ready to help, and we’re
ready for Ivan."
for relief may be made to UMCOR Advance #982410, "Hurricanes 2004," and
dropped into church offering plates or mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside
Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. People donating by credit card can
call (800) 554-8583.
*Ross is a freelance journalist based in Dallas.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.