United Methodists respond to Florida tornadoes

February 22, 2007

UMs 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 Florida Conference, said that church work teams would be part of a coordinated effort to respond to the most recent storms in central Florida. The UM Committee on Relief sent a $10,000 emergency grant to the conference, according to Tom Hazelwood, coordinator of domestic disaster relief for the agency. President George W. Bush declared Lake, Volusia, Sumter, and Seminole counties disaster areas. Geraldine McClellan, superintendent of the North Central District, reported the death of a 20-year-old, Carl Gordon, whose family attended Christ UMC in Leesburg. All of the deaths occurred in Lake County. Churches and parsonages in the area suffered minor damages, according to Swanson.


In the California-Nevada Conference, scholarship money is available to individuals forming Storm Recovery UMVIM teams, says UMVIM Director Sue King. The monies can be used for teams going to any of the states impacted by the 2005 hurricanes which includes 05’s Wilma. King says the scholarship awards are based upon need and willingness to share the UMVIM experience upon returning from the trip. “We use an application process to make award decisions. Interested applicants may contact me for the scholarship application.” King says she’s aware that most of the Cal-Nevada teams are working on Mississippi and Louisiana, but is encouraging them to branch out to other areas still rebuilding because there are still years of work to do.


In Lake County, Florida, members of New Covenant UMC 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 Dan Jackson, pastor. 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, Owen Stricklin, pastor of First UMC in DeLand; 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. Work teams interested in assisting can apply at <http://www.flumc2.org> (click on the “Disaster Response/Storm Recovery” image on the left-hand side). For more information, call 800-282-8011, ext. 149; or e-mail stormrecovery@flumc.org.


Swanson said the storm recovery center would post more information soon on its Web site regarding disaster plans at the local church level (Domestic Disaster Response: Florida Tornadoes, Advance #901670). — Linda Bloom (UMNS)