Recovery from ‘forgotten’ storm continues

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Recovery from ‘forgotten’ storm continues

Oct. 13, 2008  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0927}

An e-Review Feature
By Sarah Alsgaard**

Three and a half feet of water flooded the house, and it stayed for three weeks. After the water receded, black mold appeared on the walls. The furniture was twice its weight from water retention.

Cheri Mangum (left) speaks with DeBary homeowners Vito and Cathy Multari, whose home was flooded during Tropical Storm Fay. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #08-1028. For longer description see photo gallery.

“My wife and I had our cry, and now we’re depending on the Lord,” said Vito Multari, a resident of DeBary, after describing the damage to his home from Tropical Storm Fay.

The Multaris’ home was one of 190 in the area that had significant water damage from Fay, the sixth named storm of the hurricane season. Fay made its first landfall in Florida Aug. 18 in the Keys, then made landfall three more times before moving out of the northwest part of the state into Alabama.

Because of its erratic and slow progress Fay dropped record levels of rainfall on many parts of the state, with areas of Glades, Hendry and Brevard counties and the cities of DeBary, Deltona, Orange City, DeLand and Enterprise in Volusia County particularly affected. Some communities received more than 25 inches of rain.

“This is a storm that has no money to finance the long-term recovery efforts,” said Pam Garrison, manager of the Florida Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry. “Hurricane Ike and Gustav are receiving the bulk of the financial aid, and Tropical Storm Fay is not even on the radar screen.”

The conference disaster recovery ministry has helped coordinate recovery efforts across the state since the storm hit, with more than 252 volunteers serving 2,593 hours as of the first week in October, according to Garrison. That’s in addition to the local United Methodist churches in affected areas that have been providing assistance to their communities.

Full recovery from the storm could take at least a year, Garrison said.

‘What church is supposed to be’

“Many of the homeowners were not in flood areas, so they did not have flood insurance … they must start all over,” said Cheri Mangum, chairwoman of the outreach and mission team at Community United Methodist Church in DeBary. “It’s a sad situation.”

When Tropical Storm Fay approached DeBary, residents were warned one hour in advance to evacuate their homes, Mangum said. The storm caused water levels to rise as high as two feet within 24 hours. 

Mold and water lines mark the damage done by Tropical Storm Fay to Vito and Cathy Multari’s home. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #08-1029. For longer description see photo gallery.

“We very first got involved with helping the folks float the furniture out of their homes on boats,” Mangum said. 

It’s a first for the DeBary church. Mangum said it had never done official recovery work before Fay.

“We started out by just figuring out what could we do to help,” she said. “So we called a conference and asked Marilyn (Swanson, director of the conference disaster recovery ministry) if they could come up and coach us.”

Other groups have also given the church’s efforts a boost. The Lions Club of DeLand helped distribute $10,000 in Wal-Mart gift cards to people referred by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the church. DeBary city officials gave $500 debit cards provided by a charity the city sponsors to 74 families. And the DeBary Golf and Country Club held a benefit for the church to provide gift cards for individuals and families. It will also donate $5 per one round of golf Nov. 1-11, according to Jennifer Stancil, vice chairwoman of the church’s outreach and missions team.

Water marks on the garage door of Vito and Cathy Multari's home show how high the water got during Tropical Storm Fay.  Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #08-1030. For longer description see photo gallery.

Mangum and Stancil helped the church open its Community Cares Center, which organized the church’s relief efforts.

As of Sept. 28, the center’s 100-plus volunteers had distributed more than 130 flood buckets and 150 bags of food and provided some form of assistance to 227 residents. Volunteers also helped with flood cleanup at 33 homes.

The center is now closed, but the church is still accepting requests for help. The current focus has been on stripping drywall and removing furniture from flooded homes, Mangum said.  

“Thank God for the church,” Multari said. “They came; they took the drywall down. They worked hard here a whole day Saturday. They’ve given us food; they’ve given us cards for going to the store. Without them, we wouldn’t have made it.”

Multari and his wife are hoping to move back into their home sometime in November.

“I think it’s totally wonderful,” Cathy Multari said. “They were here to help, and that is what church is supposed to be.”

Multari says she plans to volunteer with the church to help with relief efforts. And those efforts, Stancil said, are still going strong.

“Today we went into (a) house, one house that we were going to look at,” she said. “And their neighbor came over and said ‘Hm, what are you doing?’ and then their neighbor needs help.”

“We are not here to be a short-term solution,” Mangum said. “It’s important, as the local church, for the community to know we are here with teams as long as it takes.”

In for the long haul

Recovery efforts are continuing in other parts of the state, as well, but Garrison said progress is slow because affected areas are in different stages of response and recovery.

“Some areas are still waiting for flood waters to recede, and every new rain brings additional flooding,” she said. “Other areas still have homes that need tarping, and others are still assessing damages.”

Cheri Mangum unpacks food donated to her church’s Community Cares Center. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #08-1030. For longer description see photo gallery.

Nearly 16,000 Floridians in 23 counties have registered to receive more than $13 million in individual assistance from FEMA, according to news reports. The Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commission announced Oct. 8 that agricultural producers in 59 of Florida’s 67 counties will receive disaster assistance.

When Fay made its second landfall on the Gulf Coast just south of Naples Aug. 19 and moved across the state to the east central coast, the early response team at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Melbourne went to work.

The team worked with the Salvation Army and United Way of Brevard at distribution points at the church and in Cocoa to distribute flood buckets and United Way gift cards. 

“We had tornadoes in Barefoot Bay and 20 inches of rain in Melbourne,” said Keith Heinly, coordinator of St. Paul’s disaster response team. “Many of the mobile homes in Lamplighter Village and Eau Gallie Estates were flooded.”

Sixteen volunteers from St. Paul’s and one from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church are continuing with recovery efforts in the aftermath of the immediate response. So is the Brevard Long Term Recovery Coalition, which is a partnership between United Way and area businesses, organizations and faith-based groups. Heinly is the coalition’s director of case management.

“As the response phase wears down, the recovery stage will pick up,” he said. “At that point we will need funding and work team volunteers to help in the rebuilding process.”

It could take months to years before there is a full recovery from the damage, Heinly said.

Individuals or groups that would like to help the Florida Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry with recovery efforts may visit and complete the online registration form.

Those who would like to make a contribution to recovery efforts may send a check, made payable to “Conference Treasurer” and with Advance #605 or “2008 Hurricanes” in the memo line, to Florida Conference of The Untied Methodist Church, 1140 E. McDonald St., Lakeland, FL 33801.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is a freelance writer based in Lakeland.

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