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Katrina is just one more storm for local family

Katrina is just one more storm for local family

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Katrina is just one more storm for local family

Oct. 7, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0382}

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

An e-Review Feature
By Candie Whitney**

ORLANDO — There aren't many people who can say they have experienced four major storms in a little less than 13 months. The Schiltz family can.

After surviving hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne last year, the Schiltzes found themselves in the path of Hurricane Katrina after moving to Louisiana last June.

Gretchen and Joseph Schiltz and their sons, Ben, 9, and Jackson, 5, moved to Mandeville, La., where Joseph is employed at the local NBC affiliate. While in Orlando, the family had attended First United Methodist Church, and Gretchen was on staff as the church's new member coordinator.

As Katrina approached, the Schiltzes evacuated with many of their neighbors to Jackson, Miss. Gretchen and the boys left home at 4 a.m. to take the normal three-hour drive to Jackson. Joseph and coworkers from the station weren't able to leave until around noon, and the trip took nearly 12 hours in the panic of evacuee traffic. Their station was destroyed, and they had planned to set up at the local NBC affiliate in Jackson, broadcasting from there.

Jackson was also hit hard by Katrina and lost power. Gretchen said she hopes the boys "will remember eating chocolate cake at the hotel bar in Jackson, Mississippi, by candlelight and not their frazzled mom."

While friends and family called on their cell phones to make sure the Schiltzes were safe and offer them places to stay, the family headed to Atlanta to stay with friends who had been active members of First United Methodist Church in Orlando. After staying for 10 days, Gretchen and Joseph decided to head back to Orlando, a place they knew well. Joseph's station took up residence at Orlando's WESH-TV 2, the local NBC affiliate.

A couple that attends First United Methodist Church invited the Schiltzes to stay with them. The church's pastor and his wife, the Rev. Gary and Judy Spencer, invited them to stay at the church's parsonage, so the family has been dividing its time between the two.

"Everything has fallen into place," Gretchen said. "We have felt very well taken care of from our First United Methodist Church family and Orlando friends, and we are very overwhelmed by their generosity and prayers."

The family has been attending its former church, and the boys were accepted back at their old school. "The boys have slipped right back into the swing of things," Gretchen said. "People have seen that all of our needs have been taken care of; we are so grateful. We feel very blessed."

The Schiltzes hope to move back to Louisiana sometime in October.


This article relates to Disaster Response.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitney is communications director at First United Methodist Church of Orlando.