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Cutler Ridge church remembers and responds

Cutler Ridge church remembers and responds

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Cutler Ridge church remembers and responds

Sept. 14, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0364}

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 Nancy E. Johnson**

MIAMI — August 24, 1992, changed their lives. The people of south Miami-Dade felt the fury of Hurricane Andrew. Houses were smashed. Trees toppled. Lives changed. That's why August 2005 was such a blow to the members of Cutler Ridge United Methodist Church in Miami.

"Andrew was devastating for them emotionally. It was hard for them to watch the images of Katrina," said the Rev. Sam Wright, pastor of Cutler Ridge United Methodist Church.

Hurricane Andrew destroyed the church structure, leaving the stained glass windows in pieces. "It's a tangible reminder of the destruction here," Wright said.

The Sunday after Katrina hit, the pastor put shards of that stained glass on the communion rail. Congregants could take a piece home if they made a commitment to help the victims of Katrina rebuild their lives.

Much of the need was close to home. South Florida reaped the wrath of Katrina the week before she barreled into Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Some areas received 20 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Fred Grantham is a member of Cutler Ridge United Methodist Church and a volunteer with South Dade Migrant Labor Camp. The 75-year-old retired architect appealed to his church to help the farm workers who lost almost everything in Katrina.

"The laborers don't have anything," Grantham said. "Their homes are underwater. They're out of work."

These 200-plus families who live east of Homestead are Mexican and Haitian. The farm fields and nurseries where they worked are out of business. Grantham said he and members of the church collected beans and rice to distribute to the workers to help them make ends meet. Grantham says the beans are a staple, and a family can get eight meals out of one 12-ounce bag of rice.

Grantham says they're grateful for the generosity. "You see it in their faces," he said. "You hear them (in Spanish) giving praise to the Lord."

Hundreds of young Katrina evacuees from New Orleans will also be grateful to the Cutler Ridge church. Members are donating clothing, school supplies, toys and toiletries to children who are now attending a Houston school. Leila Toledo, a church member, has a niece who teaches at the school, so she organized the relief effort to help the evacuees there.

"It makes it more personal, not just sending money in a vacuum," Toledo said. "You know what's going to happen and who's getting it."

Church members donated stuffed teddy bears for the kids, and Toledo's neighbors — two boys, ages 4 and 5 — made a huge sacrifice. They are toy truck fanatics, but decided to give theirs away to the youngest Katrina victims.

The people in this South Florida community understand the devastation of a storm better than many. Grantham moved to South Miami from Fort Myers to help the survivors of Hurricane Andrew. Thirteen years and many hurricanes later, the mission continues for this man of faith.

"The Lord set out so many things for me to do in my life when I accepted Him years ago," Grantham said. "I'm so far behind with that list that I'll never die."

How churches and members can help

* Gather supplies for Florida and other affected statesFor Florida: Migrant workers in South Florida were hard hit by Hurricane Katrina. Florida City United Methodist Church/Florida City Hispanic Mission is collecting rice and beans, non-perishable food stuffs, diapers, health kits, new men's blue jeans in small and medium sizes, new men's t-shirts (or clean t-shirts in good condition) and baby clothes. Call Diane Gutierrez at 305-247-0911 to  arrange for delivery of items. Health kit items can be found at For other states: The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) no longer needs donations of bottled water, but other items are in short supply, including health kits, school kits, new sets of twin sheets, new pillows, new blankets and new air mattresses. Health and school kit items and packaging instructions may be found at Items can be sent to the Florida Conference Disaster Response Depot in Madison (call to make delivery arrangements: 850-869-0882 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 Florida or affected areas in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi should contact the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center (SRC) at 800-282-8011, extension 149.

* 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.

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.

The SRC can be reached at 800-282-8011, extension 149.


This article relates to Disaster Response.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Nancy E. Johnson is a Florida-based, freelance television and print journalist.