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Church responds to Hurricane Frances’ devastation

 


Church responds to Hurricane Frances’ devastation

Sept. 7, 2004

By United Methodist News Service

Hurricane Frances roared over Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church in Riviera Beach, Fla., like a "wild animal," taking off half the roof and filling the sanctuary with rain.

"The wind flipped half of our roof off and put it on top of the other half," said the Rev. Cleveland English, pastor of the predominantly African-American church.

Rain poured in through the damaged roof and ruined everything inside the sanctuary, English said. With yet another storm predicted to hit Florida, he said he is not sure when cleanup can begin.

"I have been in a lot of storms, but this was something else," he said. English was at the parsonage a few miles from the church when Frances roared through. "It sounded like a wild animal trying to get in. With the help of the Lord, our roof held together."

Hurricane Frances swept through Florida over the weekend, leaving behind a "patchwork quilt" of fallen shingles, downed trees and other debris.

"Shingles are everywhere," said the Rev. Debbie McLeod, superintendent of the Broward Palm Beach District.

"Driving conditions are hazardous, most of the traffic signals are out, and there is a growing sinkhole on Interstate 95," she said.

McLeod said continuing rainfall is adding more misery to many of the churches that sustained extensive roof damage. One of the hardest-hit churches was Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church in Riviera Beach, Fla.

"I am proud of our pastors and laity, who are coping very well and helping their neighbors," McLeod said.

Frances’ arrival in Florida marks the first time in 100 years that two major hurricanes have hit the state within a three-week span. Ivan, the fifth hurricane of the season, had sustained winds of nearly 115 miles per hour and was centered 110 miles south-southeast of Barbados on Sept. 7. It was still about 1,670 miles away from Miami.

Meanwhile, Frances weakened to a tropical depression as it moved northward across Georgia. Up to a foot of rain fell on parts of Georgia, the National Weather Service said.

At least 14 deaths have been blamed on the storm in Florida and Georgia, according to the Associated Press. More than 3 million people were without electricity in Florida, and in Georgia, more than 500,000 homes and businesses were without electricity Sept. 7.

Volunteer teams coordinated by the Florida Annual (regional) Conference of the United Methodist Church - and supported by the United Methodist Committee on Relief - were planning to work with other faith-based groups to assist with cleanup, according to Disaster News Network.

Church World Service was also redeploying disaster response and recovery liaisons who have been identifying long-term needs since Hurricane Charley hit.

UMCOR and the church’s Florida Conference are still responding to Hurricane Charley, which struck Aug. 13 on the Gulf Coast, leaving 27 people dead and billions in damages.

The relief agency has issued an urgent call for flood buckets containing supplies that volunteers use in post-hurricane cleanups. Details on assembling the 5-gallon buckets can be found at umcor.org online by clicking on the "Kits" link.

"We need thousands more flood buckets," said Linda Beher, communications director for the relief agency in New York, Sept. 7. "UMCOR is getting to Florida today and will begin assessing the damage."

Financial gifts are critical during the initial response, UMCOR said. Donations pay for trained disaster workers from the agency’s network and the Florida Conference to locate as many survivors as possible following the storm. The church workers talk with survivors about needs as well as possible benefits available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

People needing help, as well as volunteers who want to assist in the relief effort, can call the Florida Storm Recovery Center operated by UMCOR and the Florida Conference at (800) 282-8011, Ext. 149.

In addition, people needing help can call any United Methodist church for assistance, Beher said. "The caller doesn’t have to be a United Methodist for UMCOR to respond."

The Florida United Methodist Foundation has created two emergency loan programs for churches affected by Hurricanes Charley and Frances. Details are available by calling the foundation at (800) 282-8011, Ext. 106; writing to foundation@fumf.org; or visiting www.fumf.org online.

Donations 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.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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