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Work teams help survivors begin to rebuild

Work teams help survivors begin to rebuild

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Work teams help survivors begin to rebuild

Sept. 24, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0374}

NOTE: This is one of a series of articles on local church and district-wide Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — The days following Hurricane Katrina may have been bleak for countless numbers of survivors, but members of Florida Conference churches began heading to affected areas as soon as they could after the storm hit to spread a little Florida sunshine and brighten dark days.

Patti Aupperlee is one of nine members from United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach who went to Laurel, Miss., Sept. 4 to do everything from chain-sawing trees to tarping roofs.

Aupperlee is director of the newcomer ministry at the church and took a lead role in the church's relief efforts last year after the area was hit hard by Hurricane Frances. She volunteered on many church teams that went into communities where people were left without electricity, water and food.

Aupperlee contacted an area in the Mississippi Conference and asked if they needed help. The call was returned two hours later with another question: could they put together a hard labor team and leave within 24 hours.

Financial means were provided, schedules were cleared, families were supportive and all the details fell into place. They pulled together a team and gathered chainsaws, generators and tarps. They arrived at a local United Methodist church about 100 miles from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Aupperlee said it was exactly what the team expected.

"There are so many downed power lines," she said in a phone interview from the church, which provided housing for the team and was where they did the majority of their work. "The power lines that aren't down have seaweed in them."

Aupperlee said the community was still in shock and the team was helping them recover and regain their emotions instead of "just going through the motions."

Team members helped the church provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to volunteers. They went door-to-door in neighborhoods to determine who needed meals and food, taking along hot meals and canned goods to last a few days. Aupperlee said she noticed many of the elderly residents weren't accepting help because they thought others needed it more.

When not removing debris or serving hot meals, the group organized supplies donated at the church, which was serving as a distribution center.

"We are busy at work," Aupperlee said from Mississippi. "It's wonderful to see the church in action. There is something for everybody to do. That's what God wants us to do — something, anything."

Sue Macchiarella, business administrator at Covenant United Methodist Church in Port Orange, headed for an area just outside Biloxi, Miss., Sept. 12 with nine other church members.

The church organized the team in less than a week after contacting the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and asking what they could do.

Before leaving on the seven-day trip, Macchiarella said the group was prepared for anything, including the possibility of chain-sawing their way into town.

Once in the area the group planned to begin dispersing baby items, flood buckets, tarps and other much needed supplies.

"We expect the worst, but hope for the best," Macchiarella said. "We have our rubber boots; we are ready."

She said the team was steadfast in its goal to help those in need.

"Our hearts are so much there with the people. The whole country is watching this unfold," Macchiarella said. "We know this is Christ-led, and our trust is in Him."

Laura Eastman trusted God would keep her and her team of seven safe during their three-day stint in Bogalusa, La.

ST. PETERSBURG — During the children's time at Riviera United Methodist Church's morning worship service Sept. 11, Scott McQueen, center, shares what happened on the mission trip a team from the church took to Bogalusa, La., Sept. 4-6. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #05-246.

The group from Riviera United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg took a trailer of goods to the area the week of Sept. 5, then purchased an additional $4,000 worth of supplies from a local Wal-Mart once there. They organized a staging area where people could drive up in their cars and take whatever they needed — baby food, toys, diapers.

Eastman said being on the mission was an opportunity of a lifetime.

"We were doing what God asked us to do," said the mental health student, who attends Argosy University. "He put it on our hearts to be there. I would go back again."

The church is planning another trip to help local law enforcement officials who are working long hours and not able to repair their own homes because they lack the energy and time.

Team member Brian Fisher said it feels good to be fortunate enough to be able to lend a helping hand to those in need. The self-employed business owner said the horrific results of the storm were worse than he expected, but he felt elated to be able to make rough situations a little better.

University of South Florida student Will Green said the decision to use sweat equity in place of cash was the deciding factor for him.

"I'm a college student, and I don't have much money, but I was able to go and do what I could," Green said. "I didn't know what to expect, but it was shocking. The people had this glazed-over look in their eyes. There was so much devastation in the houses and buildings."

Chris Eastman also went on the trip. He said while politicians and "talking heads" are busy pointing fingers at who did or didn't respond in a timely manner, storm survivors are in need of serious assistance.

"It's our Christian duty to help," he said.

Of the reason for her church's trip, Aupperlee said much the same: "We will continue to act as the hands, heart and feet of Jesus this week."

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