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Hurricane victims say church was, continues to be big help (Oct. 22, 2004)

Hurricane victims say church was, continues to be big help (Oct. 22, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Hurricane victims say church was, continues to be big help

Oct. 22, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0186}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

VIERA — Members of the Florida Conference's Melbourne District churches were out in force after hurricanes Frances and Jeanne swept through the area's communities, but district disaster coordinators and leaders say things still aren't back to normal, with more work to be done to help people fully recover.

A United Methodist work team from South Florida surprised Tim and Lynne Chandler about four days after they began cleaning up their home from the destruction of Hurricane Frances.
"It was an amazing thing," Tim Chandler said. "They worked all day, and by the time they had gotten there, I didn't have any strength left. It was a blessing to have them here."
Chandler said he's not even sure what city they were from, but just appreciates their willingness to help at a time when he and his wife were exhausted. Their home of 25 years was so damaged it was left uninhabitable.
The Rev. Steve Coss, pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Fort Pierce, where the Chandlers are members, coordinated the cleanup effort with his wife, Jeralyn. The team showed up just as the Chandlers were ready "to collapse."
"You know there's nothing you can really do, and I'm not used to having people do things for me," Chandler said. "It's a strange thing to have someone do things for you and expecting nothing. I almost feel guilty. It's just unconditional; somebody's done this wonderful thing for you, and you feel like you need to repay it some way."
Chandler said he is used to being the one to help others and the help he received from the work team made such a big difference that he is planning to return the blessing to someone else in the future.
"Sometimes it's hard to think about it and you get almost tearful, and you wait for your own turn to do something," he said.
Chandler said he and Lynne will live comfortably in an apartment for the next year or so as their house is rebuilt. His insurance company estimated damage near $130,000. The vast majority of it was done during Hurricane Frances, which hit the area Labor Day weekend.
"We had so much damage the first time, the second one didn't really make that much difference," Chandler said, adding he knows of so many others who fared worse than he and his wife. He said he thanks his friends and church family for making the experience easier for him.
Dawn and Darrell Lamb, members of Grapevine Community United Methodist Church in Port St. Lucie, also suffered major damage to their home, mostly due to Hurricane Frances. Their troubles grew when they learned that Dawn's mother and Darrell's father died within 12 hours of each other Sept. 5-the second day of the storm. Their deaths were not storm-related.
The couple and their four children could not attend Dawn's mother's funeral in New Jersey because no flights were leaving the state in time for her to be there.

In the meantime, friends Page and John Blind from Grapevine housed the family until a rental unit became available.

"He's been handling the repairs for our home and everything," Dawn Lamb said. "It's a stress reliever for me."
Lamb also said the church family continues to help her family with the grieving process and added, "I don't know what we would have done without the church."
Because hurricanes Frances and Jeanne made landfall three weeks apart and in nearly the same location, many residents in the conference's Melbourne District make little distinction between the two storms.
"There has not been a typical day yet," said the Rev. Charlie Rentz, pastor of Grapevine Community United Methodist Church and the district's assistant disaster response coordinator. "Everything is still very much centered around recovery from the hurricane in one way or another."
The Rev. Dan Parrish contrasted the large hurricane response needed this season with Hurricane Andrew in 1992, when the damage was isolated to South Florida specifically. Parrish is the district's disaster response coordinator and pastor of First United Methodist Church, Melbourne.
"What was unusual is that people weren't able to focus," Parrish said. "You've got about 12 times as many claims as you had with Hurricane Andrew."
With the large response required this season, Parrish gives credit to Jeralyn Coss for pulling together the bulk of the district's response efforts. "She was our godsend in all this," Parrish said. "She coordinated our efforts of relief down there, from ministering to families to feedings."

District Superintendent the Rev. Mike Oliver also gave Coss high marks for her hard work. "She just raised out of the woodwork on this," Oliver said. "It was just amazing, and the neat thing is that she has a passion for this."

Coss' work earned her a full-time job within the conference. Beginning next month she will be a case management worker for long-term storm recovery, working with Christians Reaching Out to Society (CROS) ministries in St. Lucie, Martin and Indian River counties. CROS is an outreach ministry and an Advance of the Florida Conference. It works with more than 100 congregations of many denominations to respond to hunger issues in their communities. 

"I am really excited, and I'm nervous too, which is a good thing," Coss said.

There's little doubt her services will be needed. "At this point at lot of organizations are out the back door and gone, and the United Methodist Church is going to be there to see them through the long term to help them restore their lives," Oliver said.


Florida Conference United Methodists are encouraged to send contributions to "Florida Storm Recovery Fund" Conference Special #605 to their local church. Church offerings should be sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802.

Groups interested in forming a work team to assist with hurricane relief and recovery efforts should contact the Florida Storm Recovery Center at 1-800-282-8011, extension 149. The Florida Conference Storm Recovery Team can be contacted by e-mail at

Donations for relief may also be made to UMCOR Advance #982410, "Hurricanes 2004," and dropped into church offering plates or mailed to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115. People donating by credit card can call 800-554-8583.

For conference news and storm updates go to

This article relates to Florida Conference Disaster Response.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.