Conference churches provide relief on wheels

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference churches provide relief on wheels

Sept. 7, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0359}

NOTE:  Churches across the conference are responding to the needs of hurricane survivors. This is one of a series of articles on local church and district-wide relief efforts that will be included in e-Review coverage of the conference's hurricane response.

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy E. Johnson**

TAMPA — Volunteers at Hyde Park United Methodist Church load a 53-foot tractor-trailer with supplies for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The truck is headed for Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, La. Photo by Kay Cornwell, Photo #05-231.

A steady rain fell over the parking lot of Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa Sept. 5. Volunteers' shirts and pants were soaked, but no one seemed to mind. After all, floodwaters left many of their neighbors on the Gulf Coast homeless and helpless.

Few people had time to talk about their mission — their relief on wheels. They were busy. But they couldn't say enough about the strangers who weren't able to pass by the 53-foot tractor-trailer truck without tossing in one more bag of supplies.

"We'd be filling health kits. We'd tell them we're out of toothpaste, and they'd go buy toothpaste and come back," said Anne Bartlett, one of the church's volunteer organizers. "The response has been amazing."

"There was this helplessness ... all those people were just trapped and, as always, it's the poorest people who suffer the most," said the Rev. Jim Harnish, senior pastor of the church.

Hyde Park United Methodist Church is one of many churches in the Florida Conference joining the convoy of trucks providing relief to survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

Church volunteers are loading trucks with clothing, diapers, water, non-perishable food, baby formula, medicine, books and toys. The "health kits" they are preparing are Ziploc bags filled with soap, washcloths, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs and nail clippers.

Aloma United Methodist Church in Winter Park has already delivered two truckloads of supplies for affected areas. Members of St. Peter's United Methodist Church in Wellington have been loading their own 53-foot semi trailer this week and plan to take it to one of the United Methodist depots as soon as it's filled. Members of Killearn United Methodist Church in Tallahassee plan to drive a truck full of clothing and diapers to First Baptist Church in Pensacola for survivors there and another filled with supplies to Alabama at the request of a local law enforcement employee. That's in addition to a truck filled with blankets, health kits and generators headed for the United Methodist Committee on Relief's Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana.

Churches are also working together to gather and deliver supplies. The Atlantic Central, East Central and North East districts have set up points throughout the districts where people can drop off items that will be taken to various groups and depots, either Sager Brown or the Florida Conference depot in Madison. In the North East District, Scott Huskey, the owner of Florida Transfer and Storage and a member of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Jacksonville,  is donating his services to transport the items.

TAMPA — Volunteers and leaders at Hyde Park United Methodist Church pray before a 53-foot tractor-trailer filled with supplies heads to Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, La., to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Rusty Carpenter, Photo #05-232.

The donations collected at Hyde Park United Methodist Church will go to Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, La. Ken Snyder is the man responsible for providing the truck. He is a partner in Seminole Transportation Specialists, a flat-bed hauler that transports concrete blocks. His wife is a member of the church.

"We didn't think twice about it," Ken Snyder said. "You got to do it. They need the help. It's just that simple."

And one act of kindness seems to generate another and another. One of Snyder's drivers agreed to make the three-day round-trip journey to Baton Rouge. Then one of the company's main customers, Rinker, provided fuel for the trip. Back at the church, a local Boy Scout troop loaded supplies along with volunteers from the Plant High School rowing team.

"I know this is making a difference in this congregation," Harnish said. "I'm confident it will make a difference in the lives of the people who receive this stuff."

This relief effort is a personal one for many of these Floridians. "All of us are sensitive to the fact that this could be us," Harnish said. "That storm could have come into Tampa Bay as easily as it went to New Orleans, so we feel a deep sense of responsibility."

How churches and members can help

* Donate: to UMCOR Advance No. 982523, "Hurricanes 2005 Global." Contributions can be made online at, at local churches or by phone at 800-554-8583. Checks should include the Advance number and name on the memo line. Checks given at local churches should be made payable to the local church. Checks mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068 should be made payable to UMCOR. Checks to support recovery in a specific region should reflect that.

* Gather supplies: The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has issued an emergency appeal for Health Kits, Flood Buckets, bottled water and blankets. Health Kit and Flood Bucket items and packaging instructions may be found at (There is a more urgent need for Health Kits.) Items can be sent to the Florida Conference Disaster Response Depot in Madison (call to make delivery arrangements: 850-869-0882 (cell) or 850-929-4938) or UMCOR's Sager Brown Depot, P.O. Box 850, 131 Sager Brown Road, Baldwin, LA 70514-0850 (please also provide $1.00 per kit to cover distribution costs and send it to Sager Brown UMCOR Advance #982730, "Contain Your Joy").

* Organize volunteer teams: Teams wanting to work in affected areas should contact the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center (SRC) at 800-282-8011, extension 149, which is working with M.E.R.C.I. (United Methodist Disaster Response Center of North Carolina) to coordinate efforts.

* Search out housing: Churches that would like to become shelters should contact their local chapter of the American Red Cross. Individuals who know of empty buildings in Florida that can be used to house displaced families should call the SRC.

Individuals looking for family members or friends who live in affected areas should call the Salvation Army at 847-709-6700 or the American Red Cross at 800-435-7669.

A camera-ready flier "Hurricane Katrina: How to Help" is available for download from the conference Web site at It may be distributed with bulletins during worship services or at other church gatherings. The SRC can be reached at 800-282-8011, extension 149.


This article relates to Disaster Response.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Nancy E. Johnson is a Florida-based, freelance television and print journalist.

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