Church puts 'dry' back in drywall

Lynda Riker of Community UMC, Fruitland Park, helps repair flood damage in the home of an 85-year-old Korean War veteran in Pasco County. Photos from Community UMC.

NEW PORT RICHEY – Volunteers from Community UMC, Fruitland Park, drove across a couple of county lines last week to embrace a broader community and help a Korean War veteran and his wife move back into their flood-damaged home.

“We basically got it ready so they could move in this weekend,” said Marvin Baden, who led the team from Community UMC. Veteran Gordon Page, 85, and his wife had been living with friends for about four months. The church mission involved putting a bathroom, bedroom and laundry room back in livable condition.

“They were just so pleased,” Baden said of the homeowners. Click here to view a report from WFLA-TV, Tampa.

And Community UMC’s efforts will have an even broader outreach, as members also helped set up the base camp for Pasco Rebuilds Together, a grassroots disaster relief effort, at First UMC, New Port Richey.

Beginning in January, the New Port Richey church will become the hub for helping dozens of homeowners with flood damage from record rainfall events this past summer. The Florida Conference and the United Methodist Committee on Relief are among faith organizations participating in the recovery efforts, along with a number of businesses, civic groups and nonprofit agencies with ties to Pasco County.

Gordon and Myrna Page in front of stripped walls
Gordon Page, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran, and his wife, Myrna, have opened their home to other veterans in need.

Baden said his team is made up of seniors who try to take at least one mission trip a year. The story of Page, who had opened his home to other military veterans in need, touched the group and made the mission an easy choice.

“That’s what really kind of tugged at us,” Baden said. “We felt very strongly that we wanted to be just a part of that.”

Four of the 13 volunteers who came from Community replaced wall coverings, door frames and baseboards in the Page home, enough so that the couple could occupy part of the house. Although the kitchen was damaged, the power is on and the refrigerator works, so the couple has access to perishable food, a microwave and the washer and dryer, Baden said.

“There’s still plenty to do for other teams that want to go there to lend a hand,” he added.

Other members of the team painted and refurbished two classrooms at First UMC, New Port Richey, so that disaster relief coordinators can have a place to evaluate requests for assistance and plan how best to address the community’s needs. 

Still others replaced decaying flooring in a mobile home occupied by a retired United Methodist minister. The aging floors were starting to give way because of excessive moisture, Baden said.

“They had water standing under the home for a number of weeks.” 

Baden sees the Pasco County projects as “really convenient” for the team from Fruitland Park, which has been making mission trips at least once a year since 2005. Past missions have included Fort Myers in southwest Florida, Pahokee near Lake Okeechobee and parts of the Florida Panhandle.

Click here for information about Pasco Rebuilds or contact Pam Garrison, disaster response coordinator for the Florida Conference, at

– Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor.

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