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Bradenton church members make trek to help devastated community

Bradenton church members make trek to help devastated community

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Bradenton church members make trek to help devastated community

Sept. 10, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0361}

NOTE:  Churches across the conference are responding to the needs of hurricane survivors. This is one of a series of articles on local church and district-wide relief efforts that will be included in e-Review coverage of the conference's hurricane response.

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

VIERA — When the Rev. Catherine Fluck Price of Harvest United Methodist Church in Bradenton arrived in Gulfport, Miss., she encountered a grateful people eager for the help she and her traveling companions offered.

BRADENTON — The Rev. Catherine Fluck Price (second from left) and three lay members from Harvest United Methodist Church here get ready to head to Gulfport, Miss., with a truck full of supplies for Hurricane Katrina surviviors. Photo by the Rev. Steve Price, Photo #05-233.

Over Labor Day weekend, Price and three lay members of her congregation drove a 16-foot truck loaded with relief supplies to Trinity United Methodist Church, located in a city that was just one of many devastated by Hurricane Katrina only five days before. She was soon meeting and greeting members of the community and the church's pastor, the Rev. Ray Stokes.
"Tears started rolling down his face (when we met)," Price said in a phone interview while in Gulport. "He said: 'I am just so tired and so glad that you are here.' "
Price traveled to the region after lay member Jerry Ogle told Price and her husband, the Rev. Steve Price, that he felt led to go to the area and help in any way he could.
"It was started by a layperson, and all of us wanted to do something, and it was Jerry who said: 'I cannot sit here anymore,' " said Catherine, who is co-pastor of the church with Steve.

After some phone calls and coordinating, the church was able to park the 16-foot truck in a Publix grocery store parking lot the Friday before they left. Shoppers, church members and even parents of the church's preschool children dropped off donations. In less than 12 hours, the truck was completely full of relief supplies — "lots of water, diapers, thousands of bottles of water, diapers, two to three hundred health kits, basic medical stuff, canned goods, baby food," Steve said.
Catherine, Ogle and two other lay members of the church — Jeff Murphy and Steve Higgs — headed for the devastated Gulf region. As the group left, their exact destination remained uncertain. Catherine stayed in touch with Steve back home via sporadic cell phone service regarding where the foursome should take the badly needed supplies. Meanwhile, they budgeted their times for filling their gas tanks, taking into account the gas shortages and very long lines.
"We had to plan very carefully on the way out there," Price said.
The four first tried to take their supplies to Eastlawn United Methodist Church in Pascagoula, Miss., only to find the church had been completely flooded. They soon learned from Steve that Jeff Pruett, the United Methodist disaster recovery coordinator in Mississippi, said to head to Trinity United Methodist Church in Gulfport.
They found a devastated upper middle-class community, with the church located about three miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico.
"(It was) incredible destruction in a very gargantuan path," Price said. "The wind and rain that comes down is horrible, and water that floods is beyond words."

BRADENTON — Flooding in the Gulfport, Miss., community caused water to rise to just eight inches below the ceiling in some people's homes, according to the Rev. Catherine Fluck Price. Residents tried to dry out and save whatever they could. Photo by the Rev. Catherine Fluck Price, Photo #05-234.

Price estimated that about half of the homes there were totally destroyed. She described one home she saw where the water had flooded in and then receded. "The water line in the house was about eight inches below the ceiling," Price said.
While there, Price said she saw plenty of military helicopters flying overhead, as well as "Jeep-type" military vehicles with National Guard people everywhere. And, of course, the region had little to no running water and no electricity. Faucets released only a trickle.

"The storm is a great leveler because nobody had food or water," Price said. "Grocery stores were flooded."
The Harvest group helped organize the relief efforts at Trinity United Methodist Church, putting to use their experience from helping the Arcadia community last year in the wake of Hurricane Charley.
Shortly after the Harvest crew arrived, Stokes earmarked the four of them to serve communion during the worship service the next day at the church, which received fairly minimal damage, according to Price.
"He had gotten a white stole for he and I to wear, and he found three smaller white stoles that he wanted me to put on the lay folks — (saying) that you all are ministering to us," Price said. "It was incredibly powerful to see these hurting, broken people ... they were crying as they were receiving it. It was a very powerful moment."
Price has vowed that Harvest United Methodist Church will return to help its brothers and sisters. In keeping with that promise, the church sent a 48-foot tractor-trailer filled with much-needed supplies back to the region Sept. 7. Bekins Moving and Storage donated the truck and a driver.

That second truck was also parked at a Publix grocery store to collect donations, which included many of the same types of relief supplies sent on the first truck, as well as cleaning items, such as bleach, sponges, mops and rubber gloves, according to Steve Price. He said it was headed to St. Marks United Methodist Church in Gulfport at Pruett's recommendation and that he and two lay members of his church — John Goda and Rob Arakel - would go to Mississippi to help unload it. They planned to return to Florida Sept 10.
The Mississippi Conference has also organized a two-day work effort Sept. 12-13. Price said at least five members of his church will be going to the area for that.

How churches and members can help

* Donate: to UMCOR Advance No. 982523, "Hurricanes 2005 Global." Contributions can be made online at, at local churches or by phone at 800-554-8583. Checks should include the Advance number and name on the memo line. Checks given at local churches should be made payable to the local church. Checks mailed directly to UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068 should be made payable to UMCOR. Checks to support recovery in a specific region should reflect that.

* Gather supplies: The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has issued an emergency appeal for Health Kits, Flood Buckets, bottled water and blankets. Health Kit and Flood Bucket items and packaging instructions may be found at (There is a more urgent need for Health Kits.) Items can be sent to the Florida Conference Disaster Response Depot in Madison (call to make delivery arrangements: 850-869-0882 (cell) or 850-929-4938) or UMCOR's Sager Brown Depot, P.O. Box 850, 131 Sager Brown Road, Baldwin, LA 70514-0850 (please also provide $1.00 per kit to cover distribution costs and send it to Sager Brown UMCOR Advance #982730, "Contain Your Joy").

* Organize volunteer teams: Teams wanting to work in affected areas should contact the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center (SRC) at 800-282-8011, extension 149, which is working with M.E.R.C.I. (United Methodist Disaster Response Center of North Carolina) to coordinate efforts.

* Search out housing: Churches that would like to become shelters should contact their local chapter of the American Red Cross. Individuals who know of empty buildings in Florida that can be used to house displaced families should call the SRC.

Individuals looking for family members or friends who live in affected areas should call the Salvation Army at 847-709-6700 or the American Red Cross at 800-435-7669.

A camera-ready flier "Hurricane Katrina: How to Help" is available for download from the conference Web site at It may be distributed with bulletins during worship services or at other church gatherings. The SRC can be reached at 800-282-8011, extension 149.


This article relates to Disaster Response.

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