United Methodists respond after Ivan (Sept. 23, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

United Methodists respond after Ivan

Sept. 23, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0171}

An e-Review Feature
By Meredyth Earnest**

ANDALUSIA, Ala. — Just days after Hurricane Ivan ravaged the Alabama-West Florida (AWF) Annual (Regional) Conference, United Methodists are actively engaged in relief and recovery efforts across Alabama and Florida.

United Methodist church members are going door-to-door to check on neighbors and members, serving hot meals—more than 1,500 people a day at some churches—and providing vital pastoral care to victims and child care for parents so they can begin to clean-up their homes. Members are also providing rest and relief to relief workers and electric crews, and many churches are serving as designated American Red Cross shelters.

Several dozen United Methodist families have lost everything they have, including their home.

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Hurricane Ivan blew the bricks off St. Paul United Methodist Church here, leaving the wood beneath damaged and exposed. Although damage assessments are not complete, Alabama-West Florida Conference disaster response workers say all the United Methodist churches in the Pensacola area were damaged. Photo by Meredyth Earnest, Photo #04-0096.

“I am extremely proud of how United Methodists are responding in the midst of crisis,” Alabama-West Florida Conference Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster said. “Even when many times they have damage to their own homes and are living under extreme anxiety, they are offering themselves to the community. Churches are being the church.

The conference’s recovery efforts and response will focus on three priority areas: repairing church property, ministering to clergy and their families and caregivers, and assisting communities, said the Rev. Libba Stinson, the conference’s director of connectional ministries.
 
To help with relief and recovery, the conference is requesting monetary donations be sent to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Hurricanes 2004 Advance # 982410, with the designation of “Alabama-West Florida Conference-Hurricane Ivan Recovery.” The funds will be used to meet victims’ needs in devastated areas.

Meeting with representatives from UMCOR Sept. 20, Goodpaster and conference disaster response team leaders decided to set up a special fund to assist damaged churches. UMCOR money will be used to help victims of the storm, so separate funds are needed to help repair church property. The fund is called the “AWF Conference Local Church Disaster Relief Fund,” Conference Advance Special # 0110-22A.

A Conference Disaster Recovery Center has also been established within the AWF Conference Mobile (Ala.) District Office as the operations center for the conference’s response. Rev. Clyde Pressley will be the center’s on-site coordinator. At the center, disaster response team members will direct the conference’s efforts. One of the responsibilities of the center’s workers will be to match volunteers with community needs. This center will allow volunteers eager to begin work to be placed into areas where they can be most effective.

“At this time, our main needs are monetary gifts and work teams,” Goodpaster said. “We are not currently seeking shipments of materials [food, water, etc.], just generous donations that will enable relief workers to serve those affected by the hurricane in the quickest way possible.”

Initial damage assessments continue to arrive at district and conference offices, offering a glimpse of what is to come with long-term relief and recovery. Goodpaster toured areas of the Baypines District Sept. 20 with District Superintendent Rev. Frederick Outlaw, visiting hardest hit Brewton and Atmore, Ala.

Goodpaster toured areas in the Pensacola District Sept. 21 with District Superintendent Rev. David Chunn. Pensacola Beach, Perdido Bay, Perdido Key and Gulf Breeze received the brunt of the storm and were devastated. During both tours, Goodpaster met with victims, churches, and volunteers and offered assistance from United Methodists.

“Beyond the damage that the churches are suffering is the total devastation of an entire area of our conference, from Gulf Shores, Ala., to Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Entire areas are simply wiped out,” Goodpaster said.

Goodpaster will tour hard hit areas of the Mobile District Sept. 24, including Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Ala.

Since the geographic area in the AWF Conference affected by Hurricane Ivan is so vast, it will take days, perhaps weeks, to continue receiving damage assessments. District disaster relief coordinators are on the ground surveying needs of the churches and communities that were affected. Because many areas are still without electricity, gathering damage reports has been difficult.

Individuals or groups interested in coordinating a group to assist with Hurricane Ivan relief and recovery efforts should contact the AWF Conference Disaster Recovery Center at 866-340-1956. Volunteers wanting to assist in recovery efforts may also call UMCOR’s toll-free volunteer hotline at 800-918-3100.

The Alabama-West Florida Conference has more than 146,000 members, including about 600 active and retired pastors serving approximately 700 churches. For more information about the Alabama-West Florida Conference visit http://www.awfumc.org.

To reach the Conference Disaster Recovery Center, call 866-340-1956 or e-mail disaster@awfumc.org. Updates and the latest news on United Methodist Hurricane Ivan recovery and relief are posted at http://www.awfumc.org.

To make a contribution to UMCOR’s Hurricanes 2004 Advance # 982410 contact UMCOR at 800-554-8583 or send gifts to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115.

Donations to the “AWF Conference Local Church Disaster Relief Fund,” Conference Advance Special # 0110-22A, may be sent to: Alabama-West Florida Conference Resource Center, Attn. Local Church Disaster Advance, P.O. Drawer 700, Andalusia, AL 36420.

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This article relates to Annual Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Earnest is director of communications for the Alabama-West Florida Conference.




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