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Community dedicates depot, celebrates its role in recent storms (Nov. 24, 2004)

Community dedicates depot, celebrates its role in recent storms (Nov. 24, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Community dedicates depot, celebrates its role in recent storms 

Nov. 24, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140     Orlando  {0200}

n Newly established disaster response depot in Madison makes debut with Charley.

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham**

ORLANDO  Nearly 100 United Methodists and community leaders gathered Sept. 30 in the northwestern part of the state, not far from the Florida-Georgia line, to dedicate the conference's new disaster response depot. They also came to celebrate the depot's ministry during the hurricanes that rocked Florida and Alabama during this hurricane season.

MADISON — Volunteers at the Florida Conference United Methodist Depot of Madison unload flood buckets and health kits sent from the United Methodist Committee on Relief the day after Hurricane Charley hit the state. The depot was ready to receive supplies just three weeks before. Photo courtesy of Florida Conference United Methodist Depot of Madison, Photo #04-0113.

The Florida Conference United Methodist Depot of Madison was ready for business just three weeks before Hurricane Charley hit Aug. 13. It began accepting health kits and flood buckets from the United Methodist Committee on Relief's (UMCOR) Sager Brown depot in Louisiana the day after Charley pummeled the state, according to the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, who leads the conference's Missions ministry and disaster response efforts. 

"The storms put the depot into action," he said, adding the depot was a "real cooperative effort."

The depot's initial response to Charley merged into helping communities in the Florida and Alabama-West Florida conferences cope with three other hurricanes-Frances, Ivan and Jeanne-with volunteers receiving and shipping supplies to areas affected by all four storms.

"We emptied the depot three times," Margaret Throgmorton said. "Everyone just really, really worked together great."

By everyone Throgmorton means not only United Methodists in Florida, but those in other states and Madison County leaders. The depot's ministry-from inception to getting it up and running to receiving and transporting supplies-was, by all accounts, a community-wide project.

Throgmorton has been helping manage the depot since it began and said the idea to open it in Madison began when the Rev. Charlie Peck, a retired pastor living there, suggested a warehouse owned by Madison County would be a good spot for the depot. It already housed Consolidated Christian Ministries, the Second Harvest Food Bank's Madison warehouse and United Methodist Cooperative Ministries of Madison County's thrift shop. Peck told Throgmorton his idea after reading about the need for a new Florida Conference disaster response depot in the conference's e-Review news service.

"There really wasn't anyone else [to fill the need]," Throgmorton said. "He just envisioned we could manage it once it was built."

The depot is run by United Methodist Cooperative Ministries of Madison County, the only rural outreach ministry of the conference. Throgmorton is chairwoman of the cooperative's board and works at the depot wherever she's needed. She worked for 18 years at Dixie Hand shipping, so she knows all about receiving and transporting shipments.

Eight United Methodist churches in the area form the cooperative and work together on shared ministries, such as elder care and prison and youth ministries. Volunteers from the churches converted the warehouse space into a depot with an $8,000 grant from the conference's emergency disaster response funds. They've also been the ones to receive, unload and transport supplies to affected communities. The core team was a group of about 20 retired men, half of whom worked at the warehouse every day "until they got it done," according to Throgmorton.

"Everyone just had their experience, and they just came to work," Throgmorton said. "We would call and say a truck [of supplies] was coming, and they'd be there in an hour. It was that quick. They were just very faithful and giving of their time."

MADISON — Volunteers from the eight churches that form the United Methodist Cooperative Ministries of Madison County unload flood buckets at the Florida Conference United Methodist Depot of Madison. The cooperative ministry led the effort to get the newly established depot up and running, just in time for the unusally active portion of the hurricane season. Photo courtesy of Florida Conference United Methodist Depot of Madison, Photo #04-0114.

The team also included Linda Gaston, a paid staff person hired by the conference to work as a co-coordinator of the depot with volunteer Ron Hidy. Madison's mayor, Mira Valentine, even pitched in and was "right up in the truck helping," according to Throgmorton, who said many more groups made the depot and its work possible.

The county commissioners provided the space free of charge. First United Methodist Church Madison agreed to pay the first year's insurance and has been generous with both volunteers and financial support, Throgmorton said. The Union Area Vocational Technical Center in Starke drove semi trucks loaded with supplies to various communities. A man named Gordon Belursem from the University of Florida certified 10 of the depot's volunteers to operate a forklift at no charge, saving the depot $1,400. And the Tallahassee District gave $1,500, which Throgmorton used toward the purchase of a used forklift.

And churches and companies from all over Florida and outside the United States have donated both money and supplies. The Nestle water plant in Madison donated more than 85,000 bottles of water. The North Alabama Decatur District donated 12 pallets of food, water and supplies, some of which made its way back to south Alabama after Ivan hit. A 53-foot trailer of mixed supplies was sent from Evans, Ga. The Virginia Conference and Society of St. Andrew sent cleaning buckets. Second Harvest ministries, one of the depot's neighbors at the warehouse, donated three and a half pallets of its food because "they thought enough of what we were doing to help out," Throgmorton said, adding, "we got things from as far away as Chatham, Illinois."

Throgmorton said a total of 18 different loads, transported in everything from pickup trucks to semis, left the warehouse and went to places like Arcadia, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Fort Pierce-anywhere volunteers from the Florida Conference's Storm Recovery Center told depot workers supplies were needed. Supplies were also shipped to Pensacola and Alabama to help people affected by Hurricane Ivan.

Now that the emergency phase has ended Throgmorton says volunteers work at the depot only when supplies are being delivered there or shipped out.

And supplies continue to be donated to help restock the depot. Members of the conference's United Methodist Women assembled 19 boxes of health kits that are ready to be shipped where needed and provided enough additional supplies to "easily get 25 boxes," Throgmorton said. The American Red Cross in Tampa donated two 53-foot trucks filled with paper goods and baby wipes, which are now being sent to nursing homes, hospitals, volunteer fire departments and schools because they can't be stored long-term. The Farmers Cooperative of Madison donated two semi-trucks filled with water, food and cleaning supplies from its Jacksonville warehouse. And the depot is storing about 20 generators. All but nine will go back to UMCOR's Sager Brown depot.

With all those supplies Throgmorton says they are out of room. "We really, really believe we need more space. We're already out of space."

Despite the challenges-jumping into action just weeks after completing the depot, working initially without forklifts and ramps-Throgmorton says it's been a rewarding experience.

"We've all been richly blessed by what little we've been able to do for the whole effort," she said. "We just depended on God and asked him to help us every day."


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.
**Parham is editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.