RV expands disaster recovery ministry

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

RV expands disaster recovery ministry

By Jenna De Marco | Oct. 28, 2009 {1096}

Florida Conference Disaster Recovery efforts continue to be anything but leisurely, despite the recent addition of a unique tool — a recreational vehicle.

The motor home will be used by New Covenant United Methodist Church to house early reponse team members and pull the church’s disaster response trailer. Photo by Pam Garrison. Photo #09-1332.

A private donor gave a pre-owned motor home to the conference as a gift to be used specifically for disaster recovery, said Pam Garrison, manager of the conference’s Disaster Recovery ministry.

Although the conference took over the title of the 2005 Gulf Stream EnduraMax — a class C, 35-foot RV — in late December 2008, several months passed before a clear vision for its use came together, Garrison said. Such a gift required some time to “think outside the box and think in terms of: ‘God brought us this gift and how does he want us to use it?’ ” she said.

During the summer, prayer met opportunity when Garrison and several other conference staff were discussing the motor home, which was being stored and maintained at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park.

Camp facilities manager Billy Thompson suggested it might be helpful to find a church that would care for the vehicle and drive it regularly as part of its ministry. When tools are not used, “the tool itself gets rusty and out of repair,” he said. “And resources and assets are better used rather than sitting still.”

Garrison decided New Covenant United Methodist Church in The Villages near Leesburg would be a good candidate. The church has several dozen early response team (ERT) members and a disaster recovery trailer. It is also located near the camp.

The conference will pay for the RV’s insurance, but New Covenant will take responsibility for properly maintaining the vehicle. Several members of the church’s ERTs are eligible to drive the RV and knowledgeable about its upkeep, Garrison said.

“They have really embraced it as a ministry of the church,” she said.

As part of the arrangement, New Covenant ERT members will use the motor home periodically in response to disaster recovery needs. Driving it regularly will also ensure it is ready for service if a major disaster strikes or the conference needs to establish a temporary office out in the field.

Jim Watson describes the partnership as a “God-send for us all.” Watson is New Covenant’s ERT leader. He said team members had been praying for a tow vehicle to pull the church’s specially equipped disaster recovery trailer. The motor home can do that, he said, and more.

“If there’s a disaster, we’ll go out on it, and we’re going to use it for recovery, too,” he said. “We can cook, shower, sleep and do a multitude of things.”

The motor home includes space for four to six people to sleep, as well as a bathroom, kitchen and large generator. Al Letch, a certified New Covenant ERT member, has test-driven the vehicle and said it fits well with the ministry.

An early response team from New Covenant United Methodist Church prepares to install a tarp on a roof. Photo courtesy of New Covenant United Methodist Church. Photo #09-1333.

“It’s a very heavy-duty piece of equipment, and it’s absolutely ideal for the use that we have for it,” he said.

New Covenant plans to use the RV in tandem with its trailer in both early response and long-term recovery situations, Watson said. The trailer itself is 14 feet long, 7 feet high and 7 feet wide. The equipment it holds includes a variety of tools, about 8,000 square feet of tarp, a ladder, shovels, brooms, rakes, nails, screws, cooking and cleaning supplies, a small generator, and toilet capabilities.

When used with the motor home, Watson said, the trailer’s gear can be maximized. “I feel comfortable that we can be far more effective with the equipment,” he said.

New Covenant ERT co-leader Larry Frum, whose professional experience includes handling disaster claims, said the diverse skills and knowledge of New Covenant members, many of whom reside in the community’s Villages neighborhood, has made it possible to care for the motor home, which he describes as a “great asset” to disaster recovery.

More information about the Disaster Recovery ministry is available at http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=1358.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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