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City and church work together to bring relief

City and church work together to bring relief

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

City and church work together to bring relief

Sept. 21, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0369}

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 John M. De Marco**

NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Coronado Community United Methodist Church has had a long-standing relationship with the city of New Smyrna Beach. That relationship is reaping benefits for families along the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH — This sign was provided by the city of New Smyrna Beach to direct area residents to a warehouse furnished by Coronado Community United Methodist Church members for collections of supplies for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Photo courtesy of Coronado Community United Methodist Church, Photo #05-239.

"The city will actually run much of its individual giving through UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) and our church," said the Rev. Bob Brown. "All the churches in eastern Volusia will bring their supplies here. ... This is going to be a very interesting process, and for a long time."

Brown has been pastor of the 100-year-old church for 25 years. In that time he has worked to help foster good relationships between the church's regular attendees, now numbering around 900, and the area's local government and residents.

"It helps when you've been here for 25 years, because you know everybody," he said.

Collecting donations is by no means the extent of what the church and city are doing together, however.

The church has been storing and assembling health kits, flood buckets and water in a warehouse provided by two church members, Frank and Glee Anderson, until they can be shipped to the Gulf Coast. The city of New Smyrna Beach provided electric traffic signs that direct people wanting to drop off supplies to the warehouse. The city manager of New Smyrna Beach, who is also a member of the church, offered a police escort for a shipment of supplies going to Mississippi. And the Volusia County Sheriff's Department sent a convoy to the Gulf Coast three days after Katrina struck, with items that included clothing donated by the church's thrift store.

The church is also collecting names of people who have housing for displaced families and coordinating with the city, which has a sister-relationship with Long Beach, Miss., to bring people to New Smyrna Beach. Long Beach, with a population of 17,000 residents, has lost 85 percent of its income tax base due to the hurricane.

The church has already collected more than $20,000 in donations and assembled close to 500 health kits. The church's day school has enrolled one child from Mississippi so far; the child's sibling was placed in New Smyrna Beach's Sacred Heart Catholic School.

On Sept. 12 Brown was invited by the city manager to a debriefing of officials from New Smyrna Beach, Palm Bay and Long Beach who had been assessing the needs along the Gulf Coast. One of those needs is mental health counseling, and the church is working to link people in need to counseling resources.

The meeting also involved reviewing videotape, and Brown offered the church's new audio-visual facilities for viewing purposes on an ongoing basis.

Brown and the church's role in community disaster response and recovery efforts has developed over the years while responding to a variety of needs, such as the city's evacuation as Hurricane Floyd approached and the aftermath of a tornado that destroyed several hundred neighboring homes. In addition, the church sent people and resources to help Palm Coast United Methodist Church and that community when a series of wildfires destroyed many homes in the summer of 1998.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Members of Coronado Community United Methodist Church pack health kit for the United Methodist Committee on Relief at a warehouse provided by church members. Photo courtesy of Coronado Community United Methodist Church, Photo #05-240.

That foundation of involvement and service prepared the church to deal with the 2004 hurricanes and the current situation along the Gulf Coast.

"We've had to work together," Brown said.

Working together took another form in August when a police officer — also a member of the church — was killed in the line of duty. Brown, the city manager and police chief worked closely to coordinate what was both a private family event and a public outpouring of support.

"I think it's important to have a good relationship, good lines of communication with public officials, and for them to trust you to have the welfare of the community at heart and not to have a narrow agenda," Brown said. "We have a good track record of serving the community in many ways. They know they can count on us to handle responding to an emergency like this in a responsible and all-encompassing way. We're not going to go in and proselytize and look out for the needs of the church first."

Brown is encouraging church members with skills for working with children and youth to get involved in assisting displaced families. He said that meshes well with the church's experience sending members on mission trips to other countries, which have often involved working with large numbers of children. Several church members left for Mississippi Sept. 12, following others who had already traveled there and back.

Brown said he feels the organization of the conference's new districts has been helpful in coordinating information on disaster-related needs and what can be done to help. The Louisiana Conference Web site has also been a helpful tool, he added.

"I feel very good about what we've done," Brown said. "It's very important to be flexible, because everybody wants to help, everybody wants to help now. But the ways in which we can help are constantly evolving. Patience is really a virtue here - the need is going to be there for years. We need to really pace ourselves, and realize that the help we want to give may not be needed.

"It's a combination of individual efforts, church efforts and city efforts," he added. "We'll do whatever works best."

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 is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.