|United Methodists respond to Florida tornadoes
Residents of the Hawthorne Hills
community in DeLand, Fla., salvage their belongings after an early
morning tornado destroyed the mobile home park.
A UMNS photo by the Rev. Ivan Corbin.
A UMNS Report by Linda Bloom*
Feb. 5, 2007
United Methodists are organizing to help clean up following the Feb. 2
tornadoes that slammed central Florida and left 20 people dead.
Meanwhile, coordinators are reminding mission teams that relief still is
needed in south Florida for victims of Hurricane Wilma from 2005.
Marilyn Swanson, project director of storm recovery for the
denomination's Florida Annual (regional) Conference, told United
Methodist News Service that church work teams would be part of a
coordinated effort to respond to the most recent storms in central
The United Methodist Committee on Relief sent a $10,000 emergency
grant to the conference, according to Tom Hazelwood, coordinator of
domestic disaster relief for the agency. "We stand ready to send other
people if they need it," he said.
Lake, Volusia, Sumter and Seminole counties were declared disaster areas
by President Bush. The Rev. Geraldine McClellan, superintendent of the
North Central District, reported the death of a 20-year-old, Carl
Gordon, whose family attended Christ United Methodist Church in
Leesburg. All of the deaths occurred in Lake County.
Churches and parsonages in the area suffered minor damages, according to Swanson.
In Lake County, members of New Covenant United Methodist Church have
been preparing food and taking it to nearby North Lake Presbyterian
Church, which has been set up as a shelter for The Villages and Lady
Lake area, according to the Rev. Dan Jackson.
They also have taken blankets and sheets purchased by the district to
recreation areas in The Villages serving as distribution points, and
the conference's disaster response depot is sending health kits to New
Covenant for distribution.
In the Florida Conference's East Central District, the Rev. Owen
Stricklin, pastor of First United Methodist Church in DeLand; the Rev.
Wayne Wiatt, district superintendent, and Marilyn Beecher, outreach
coordinator, toured affected areas Feb. 3 to gauge the level of support
needed from churches in the district.
Swanson said it may Feb. 7 or Feb. 8 before work teams are allowed into
the hardest-hit areas and that deployment would be coordinated through
the Lake County management and Christian contractors. "They were asking
that work teams not independently deploy themselves," she said.
Work teams interested in assisting can apply at the Web site for the Florida Conference's storm recovery center. For more information, call (800) 282-8011, ext. 149; fax 863-688-7233 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swanson hopes some teams might be willing to do other storm-relief work
in Florida. "We still have a need for work teams in South Florida from
Hurricane Wilma," she said. "A year and a half later, there are still
people waiting for their homes to be repaired."
Work teams for the continuing Hurricane Wilma response are needed in the
Keys and in Monroe, Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades counties.
Hawthorne Hills mobile home park in DeLand, Fla., is a mass of twisted
metal and debris after being hit
by a tornado Feb. 2.
Swanson said the storm recovery center will post more information
soon on its Web site regarding disaster plans at the local church level.
"We've been doing training for local church plans for the last year,"
she said, noting that "there's really no place where they don't have the
potential to have a disaster. That's what churches don't realize."
Checks can be mailed to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087, and
should have "UMCOR Advance #901670, Domestic Disaster Response - Florida
Tornadoes," written on the memo line of the check. Credit card
donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
York. Tita Parham, managing editor of e-Review Florida United
Methodist News Service, contributed to this report.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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