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First responders: Sit tight, help is on its way

First responders: Sit tight, help is on its way

As United Methodists in Florida see images on television or the Internet of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in the northeastern U.S. and, before that, in the Caribbean islands, it is natural for many to want to reach out with supplies and volunteer labor.

Cars underwater in flooded NYC street
Scenes of flooding and property damage in New York and New Jersey are dominating the news. Above, abandoned cars have been pushed into a pile on a flooded New York street. Below, a park floods below the  Williamsburg Bridge. Photos by Adam Schultz.
The Williamsburg Bridge, NYC, during Hurricane Sandy

But the time is not right for that, experts say. In the immediate wake of the storm, the best things United Methodists can do are to pray for those impacted by the storm and reach into their pockets to donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which has the resources to address the needs of those hardest hit by the storm.

“We’re encouraging people to just pray and wait until we see what the needs are,” said Pam Garrison, manager of the disaster recovery ministry for the Florida Conference.

She said damage from a natural disaster the size of Sandy will mean a need for long-term recovery efforts, probably next summer and fall.

“That’s when they’re going to need teams coming in,” Garrison said, noting that often recovery assistance wanes when media coverage moves on.

“That’s when United Methodists shine – during the recovery time.”

Right now, she added, collection centers have not been set up in Florida for donated items, so monetary donations are the speediest way to help.

Bishop Ken Carter said he understands the desire to take action.

"Many congregations throughout the Florida Conference have connections through friendship and family with communities in Cuba, Haiti and the Greater New York-New Jersey area," he said.

"I encourage you to lift these bonds of family and friendship up in prayer this Sunday and make a gift to UMCOR."

Early this week, UMCOR reported that its field staff was already assessing damages in the Caribbean, where people are grappling with widespread power outages and agricultural damages, as well as death and injury.
Cuba, where the Florida Conference has a covenant relationship and shares mission work with the Methodist Church, took a direct hit from the storm. At least 11 deaths have been attributed to the hurricane.

Haiti, an island still trying to recover from a massive earthquake in 2010 that left many living in makeshift homes, received more than 20 inches of rain. News organizations report more than 18,000 families displaced by the storm. Sandy is blamed for at least 52 deaths in that island nation, where the Florida Conference also has a covenant relationship.

UMCOR has made it easy to fuel relief efforts. To make a donation, click here. You can also text the word RESPONSE to 80888 to give an immediate $10 donation.

Here are some other ways you can help:

To give through the Haiti/Florida Conference Advance, make checks payable to the “Florida Conference Treasurer” and write "Advance #100190-Hurricane Relief" on the memo line. Send checks to:

Florida United Methodist Center
Attn: Heidi Leab
450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815

For relief efforts in Cuba, you can give through the Methodists United in Prayer Conference Advance. Make checks payable to "Florida Conference Treasurer," write “Advance #100070-Hurricane Relief” on the memo line, and send them to the address above.

Three districts in the conference have set up specific relief funds for Cuba. In the Southwest District, make checks payable to "Southwest District-Cuba Program" and send them to:

Dan Christopherson
125 Treviso Court
Venice, Florida 34275

Contributions from churches in the South Central District can be sent to:

Lake Magdalene UMC
Attn: Steve Livingston
2902 Fletcher Ave.
Tampa, Fl. 33618
(Write “Hurricane Relief/Santiago” on the memo line.)

Contributions from churches in the Atlantic Central District can be sent to:

Satellite Beach UMC
Attn: Marj Green
450 Lee Ave
Satellite Bch FL 32937
(Write "Hurricane Relief/Holguin" on the memo line.)

For additional information on the situation in Haiti and Cuba, check out the Global Missions blog.

For additional ways members of the Florida Conference can help people recover from disaster, click here

To read more about UMCOR efforts in the islands, click here. To read about UMCOR's response in the U.S., click here.

To see images of damage from Hurricane Sandy in Cuba and Haiti, click here