|A UMNS photo by Meredyth Earnest
An Alabama home stands in ruins in the wake of Hurricane Ivan.
Feb. 1, 2005
By Meredyth Earnest*
Ala. (UMNS) — United Methodist churches throughout the Alabama–West
Florida Annual (regional) Conference are continuing to help their
communities recover from Hurricane Ivan, four months after the storm.
partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the
conference expects to be involved in the long-term recovery process for
at least two to three years.
The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR’s U.S.
disaster response coordinator, recently toured many of the areas in
Alabama-West Florida that were most damaged Sept. 16 by Hurricane Ivan.
Some of his stops included Pensacola, Fla.; Gulf Shores, Ala.; Mobile,
Ala.; and Perdido Key, Ala.
During a Jan. 25 stop in Atmore,
Hazelwood noted the vast difference in the landscape since his last
visit to the conference, a week after the hurricane.
amount of work has been done already,” he said. “When I flew in, I
noticed the significant number of blue tarps still on homes – each one
indicating where a roof still needs to be replaced or repaired. Even
with the many strides the conference has made, there is still a lot of
work to be done.”
One church that has been particularly active in
disaster recovery is Atmore First United Methodist Church. The church’s
pastor, the Rev. Doug Newton, is a veteran of dozens of mission trips
during his 49-year ministry and has a passion for helping those in need.
First Church has become a center for recovery efforts in Atmore
and the surrounding area, according to Newton. “The word has gotten
around — you can get help at the United Methodist church.”
|A UMNS file photo by Meredyth Earnest
Blue tarps give evidence of Hurricane Ivan�s impact on Alabama in fall 2004.
Not long after Ivan hit, the Atmore congregation received a blessing
in the form of Alice Holmes, an 80-year-old member of Hedding United
Methodist Church in Elmira, N.Y. When Ivan made landfall, Holmes took a
Greyhound bus to Pensacola to help however she could. The extensive
damage prevented the bus from entering Pensacola, so she ended up in
Mobile. There she learned of the significant damage in Atmore and the
lack of response, and decided that was where she would help.
initially working at a Baptist church for a month, Mrs. Alice, as she
is affectionately known at First Church, offered to help the United
Methodists. She now coordinates all of the church’s recovery efforts out
of her own office in the church.
Since her arrival more than
three months ago, Mrs. Alice has been living in the church’s youth
house. “She has come to live with us, quite literally, and she has been
as faithful as any paid staff,” Newton said.
When Mrs. Alice
decided the youth house could accommodate more than just her, she went
to Newton with the idea of converting it into a dorm-like space for
volunteer work teams. The church borrowed cots from the local armory and
set them up for incoming teams. Since then, the church has hosted 60
teams, almost of all of which have stayed in the house. The church, with
help from the volunteer teams, has worked on 179 homes and six
“I want all pastors to know that they don’t have to be
afraid to open up their churches to (work) teams and say, ‘Yes, we can
take you,’” Newton said. “What they may not understand is that work
teams have an ‘Alice Holmes mentality.’ When we tried to provide a bed
for Mrs. Alice in our youth house she said, ‘Volunteers sleep on cots or
on the floor.’ So, she convinced me that maybe these volunteers would
sleep on cots and crowd into this little house.”
While much of the
attention during disaster recovery is focused on cleanup, construction
and debris removal, Hazelwood cautions those involved to not overlook
the deeper problems survivors face.
“You have to remember the
ministry part of all this, and check on people’s emotional and spiritual
state of mind,” he pointed out. “Oftentimes, they can get frustrated
because of what seem to be delays in insurance processing, (federal)
assistance, and a lack of progress. We have to be aware of these issues
and address them as we are able.”
Hazelwood assured the conference of UMCOR’s commitment to assist in the long recovery.
|A UMNS photo by Meredyth Earnest
The Rev. Clyde Pressley oversees the Disaster Recovery Center headquartered in Mobile, Ala.
The Rev. Clyde Pressley was recently named executive director of the
conference’s disaster recovery center in Mobile. Pressley oversees
everything from material distribution to case work management and
placement of volunteer work teams.
The placement of teams is a
time-consuming job for Pressley. The geographic area is large, and each
community has different recovery needs that require different types of
volunteer teams. He said the Holy Spirit helps guide his decisions.
for UMCOR’s hurricane assistance should be designated to Advance No.
982410, “Hurricanes 2004.” Checks can be dropped in church collection
plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New
York, NY 10115. To donate by credit card, call (800) 554-8583, a
toll-free number. Online, donors can go to www.MethodistRelief.org, where a secure server allows the donor to enter credit-card information.
*Earnest is communications director for the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.