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Church helps families living paycheck-to-paycheck after Wilma

Church helps families living paycheck-to-paycheck after Wilma

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church helps families living paycheck-to-paycheck after Wilma

Nov. 8, 2005  News media contact: Tita Parham*  
800-282-8011   Orlando {0394}

An e-Review Feature
By Nancy E. Johnson**

WEST PALM BEACH — Volunteers unload 150 flood buckets from Peachtree City United Methodist Church in Atlanta, Ga. The Georgia church also delivered buckets to Broward County to be shared with United Methodist churches in Canal Point, Pahokee and Belle Glade. Photo courtesy of United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, Photo #05-269.

WEST PALM BEACH — An assembly line formed in the four-bay garage of United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches. Flood buckets filled with supplies passed from one hand to the next.

"Just keep swinging," volunteers called.

The high winds and heavy rains Hurricane Wilma brought Oct. 24 are gone, but the devastation remains. In Palm Beach County, hundreds of thousands of people lost power. Many have been turning to ministries and churches like United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches for help.

"It's the ones who live paycheck to paycheck, and they can't go back to work because work is gone or doesn't need them. Those are the ones that are really hurting and depend on us to get by," said the Rev. David McEntire, pastor of United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches.

Members of the West Palm Beach church have left their own desperate situations behind and volunteered to help others. Some did kitchen duty. On a Saturday afternoon nearly a week after the storm hit the aroma of chicken, rice and jambalaya filled the fellowship hall. It was the first hot meal many of the hurricane survivors had eaten in a long time.

"A lady came in to eat a meal. She was standing in line crying," McEntire said. "She said she'd been eating crackers for four days. She was dressed nice and looked like she should have the wherewithal to do it, but she ran out of food."

The church served more than a thousand hot meals that day. Volunteers filled 500 bags with nonperishable food for families of four that would last them for about a day and a half. Angela Ligonde is a Riviera Beach resident who stopped by to feed her family.

"No grocery stores are open in Riviera. There's no power. We have nothing," Ligonde said. "I have five kids, so anything I can get to help my kids helps."

Winford Wilhoit lives in a mobile home at Lakeside of the Palm Beaches. He showed up at the church for a hot meal. He reported that Wilma flattened at least 75 of the 300 mobile homes in his community. She spared his.

"Some of the older homes, (Wilma) just split them open like a can opener. Some people ain't got nothing. ... But I appreciate the help," Wilhoit said.

WEST PALM BEACH — The Rev. David McEntire puts up a sign just a few hours after Hurricane Wilma cleared the area, letting residents know the church is open to help. Photo courtesy of United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, Photo #05-268.

A quick drive through the Palm Beaches reveals a community ransacked by Wilma. Christian Manor nursing home was one of her victims. The roof was peeled off the facility and crushed two cars in the parking lot. The nursing home lost power for five days, so United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches prepared meals for the 125 residents.

The church building suffered only minor damage, with a few tiles coming off the roof, but next door, Wilma demolished City Furniture's warehouse showroom. McEntire believes his church was spared for a reason.

"The utilities at our church were turned on by the second day in Frances, Jeanne and now Wilma. That's unusual, but it allowed us to get up and running to help people," McEntire said.

The church is reaching out wherever there's a need. Teams are busy putting tarps on damaged homes and clearing fallen trees. Church members distributed clothes left over from a rummage sale to needy families.

Donna Luther is a church volunteer who's been busy unloading trucks and serving meals. "We have no power, so we can sit at home and do nothing or help," she said.

Luciana Dearaujo is another church member who's using his talents to serve. His construction job is on hold because of the storm's aftermath, but he has volunteered to cut trees and clear branches. He believes the relief effort at United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches is a blessing for those who need the help and those who give it.

"When people come looking for help, they help my spirit," Dearaujo said. "It gives me the amazing feeling of serving. It makes me feel good."

How to help with recovery and cleanup

* Gather supplies, volunteer: Affected areas need a variety of supplies and assistance from work teams. Trucks and truck drivers to deliver supplies are also needed. Because needs change daily, individuals and churches interested in helping should contact the SRC at 800-282-8011, extension 149, or to find out what they can do to help. The center matches individuals/teams with current and emerging needs. Health kits and flood buckets are also needed and can be sent to the Florida Conference Disaster Response Depot in Madison (call to make delivery arrangements: 850-869-0882 or 850-929-4938). Items included in both can be found at

* Give generously: Individuals are encouraged to give to "Florida Storm Recovery" Fund, Conference Special #605, to assist with cleanup and recovery. Checks should include the fund name and number in the memo line. Checks may be given at local United Methodist churches and made payable to the church or mailed to Conference Treasurer, The United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802, and made payable to Florida Conference Treasurer. Individuals may also give 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 to
UMCOR at P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068 should be made payable to UMCOR.

For response updates go to


This article relates to Disaster Response.

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