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Work of conference youth is music to displaced teens, families

Work of conference youth is music to displaced teens, families

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Work of conference youth is music to displaced teens, families

Sept. 16, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0366}

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 J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — The news pouring out of areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina has been heartbreaking, and the youth of Florida Conference churches are reaching outside themselves to start the healing in teens just like themselves.

Glued to televisions around the country, millions watch as the devastation from the hurricane unfolds before their eyes, but the youth of First United Methodist Church, Pompano Beach, saw something many people didn't see or overlooked in the rush of getting basic necessities to people displaced by the storm — music or the lack of it.

The Rev. Fawn Mikel, pastor of the Pompano Beach church, said the 40 youth active at her church decided to collect something they know the youth of hurricane-impacted areas love and miss — their own music.

POMPANO BEACH — Youth at First United Methodist Church here display compact discs they have collected for youth impacted by Hurricane Katrina. They are also collecting new and slightly used compact disc players and batteries, all of which will be sent to displaced youth in Texas. Photo courtesy of First United Methodist Church, Pompano Beach, Photo #05-237. Web photo only.

Taking the lead from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who said, "Music is the universal language of mankind ('Outre-Mer')," the church's youth decided they wanted youth displaced by the hurricane to know they speak their language. They are collecting new and used compact disc players and discs (secular and non-secular) in excellent condition, along with batteries, for the teens.

By placing music in their lives again, Mikel said she hopes the teens will recover a little part of themselves and reclaim their lives as "just being average teen-agers," albeit those who survived a major natural disaster.

Mikel said the youth began the project Sept. 1 and hope to put the players and music in the hands of teen-agers by then end of the month.

She said she has no doubts the items will be extremely appreciated.

"I received an e-mail from a man who was a teen-ager when there was a major flood in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1979," Mikel said. "He was told that he had to grow up, that he was no longer a child. We don't want these children who survived the storm to have to grow up so quickly. So he, and everyone else, is very excited that we're doing this. It may not be food, water or shelter, but it's important to those teens."

The youth group is partnering with First Priority, a Christian club in area schools, so the numbers of teens helping those in need, as well as those receiving the items, will be increased, Mikel said.

"We're hoping that everyone who hears the word of what we're doing will spread it and help us out," she said. "We're going to need lots of these items and transportation to get it to Texas. We know it will all work out — God is leading us."

People who would like to help may contact the church at 954-943-0404. 

Youth meet other needs

Across the conference, some of the youngest United Methodists are finding other ways to lead relief efforts.

Youth at First United Methodist Church, Coral Springs, organized a special collection for health kits that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) will give to people in hurricane devastated areas. The kits include a variety of hygiene items.

The Rev. Frank Fitzsimmons, associate pastor and youth director, said the youth felt compelled to place something tangible in the hands of the thousands who are now in need. He thought it would be something good for the 125 youth to do to help them emotionally deal with the horrific natural disaster.

The youth collected financial contributions and raised $6,000 Sept. 4. They also partnered with the church's United Methodist Men and youth from a nearby United Methodist and Baptist church to make 2,000 health kits.

"Everyone wants to do something to relieve the suffering," Fitzsimmons said. "It has snowballed. It has been incredible. We plan to do it again."

The youth at Ponte Vedra United Methodist Mission also wanted to get involved. They assembled and dropped off flood buckets at a United Methodist Church serving as a collection point.

The Rev. Jeffrey Bennett, pastor at the church, said the youth are incorporating disaster response in their weekly meetings by designating a specific area for the youth to make flood buckets.

The youth at Estero United Methodist Church also has flood buckets on their minds and are hard at work attempting to assemble 50. Boy Scouts in Troop 30, which meets at the church, are donating all of their camping equipment and tents to the Louisiana Boy Scout District so people may use them to meet their immediate cooking and shelter needs. The church will be asked later in the year to refurnish the items for the troop.

Boy Scout Troop 22 at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa assembled more than 1,500 health kits.

Taking a different approach

Four middle school girls at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches decided to do something a little different to help with relief efforts — something they knew would show results. They plan to hold a bake sale.

The girls know what they are doing. After tsunamis devastated coastal communities in the Indian Ocean in December 2004, the girls raised $1,000 with one bake sale.

The Rev. David McEntire, senior pastor at the church, said the funds will be donated to UMCOR.

"This is as easy as it gets for me," he said. "I just have to announce it from the pulpit and have someone set up a table. It's all about empowering people to the mission field."

That mission field has extended to Laurel, Miss., an area about 100 miles from the coast that was slammed with 110-mile per hour winds. The church has nine people working there, according to McEntire, who said church members have also opened their homes to storm survivors relocating to the area.

"This is where my church has grown to," he said. "We know that if we cast our bread upon the waters, in many, many days it will return to you. Mission is a part of our spiritual DNA. We are outward directed."

That missional DNA is also expressing itself in kids at some of Jacksonville's United Methodist churches.

Emmie Trammell, a first-grade student and member of Avondale United Methodist Church there, called the church office inquiring about holding a "Kool-Aid for Katrina" stand at the church. Twenty children ran the stand for two hours late one afternoon and raised $775.

JACKSONVILLE — Children at Southside United Methodist Church here run a lemonade stand to help raise money for Hurricane Katrina survivors. Photo by Faith McCall, Photo #05-238.

Children at Southside United Methodist Church decided lemonade would be a big seller. Andrew and Matthew Price partnered with friends Ryan McCall and Trotter and Pierson Duce to help Hurricane Katrina survivors by setting up a lemonade stand on Labor Day at the duck pond down the street from the church. They opened at 9 a.m., and at 2 p.m. the group had raised $1,200.

And children and youth at New Life Community United Methodist Church are making and sending encouraging cards and letters to youth as they rebuild their lives.

A little further down the state to the southwest, children and youth at Christ United Methodist Church in Leesburg have decided making health kits will be their project this month. They have currently raised enough funds for 25 kits, which will be assembled and transported to UMCOR.

And the beat goes on.

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.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.