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CREW tackles flooding from Ernesto on top of Wilma relief

CREW tackles flooding from Ernesto on top of Wilma relief

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

CREW tackles flooding from Ernesto on top of Wilma relief

Sept. 22, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0550}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

CREW team members staff an information table at a hurricane information day held in Moore Haven a few days after Tropical Storm Ernesto flooded Southwest Florida's Glades and Hendry counties. Photo courtesy of Trish Adams, Photo #06-437.

The Community Rebuilding Ecumenical Workforce, Inc., (CREW) in Clewiston has been making progress helping victims of last year’s Hurricane Wilma. Now, the team has new challenges, thanks to Tropical Storm Ernesto.

“Palmdale was pretty much flooded — the whole town,” said Trish Adams, executive director of CREW and long-term recovery coordinator for United Way in Hendry and Glades counties. “(The town) has a creek called ‘Fisheating Creek’ that flooded most of the town.”
The exact number of people affected by the flooding is not yet known, Adams said. That’s because many families are not comfortable asking for assistance from people they perceive as “outsiders.” Palmdale is located in Glades County.
“The problem (with this storm) is that a lot of people don’t have flood insurance. It’s not hurricane damage, and it’s not considered a natural disaster,” Adams said. “It’s going to be difficult to find help for them. It’s an older population out there. It’s very rural.”
Members of CREW visited the fire chief and asked him to let residents know CREW is willing to help. They also posted signs around the community.
One of the houses with the worst damage had water marks about a foot high on its walls, Adams said. “All the drywall is going to have to be replaced … the floor squishes when you walk on it so all the flooring is going to have to be replaced.”
The affected families are low-income or on fixed incomes, she added, with single-family style homes or trailers.
As of mid-September, CREW members were already working on four cases from Ernesto, but Adams said the American Red Cross has told nearly 30 families about the services CREW offers.
Meanwhile, CREW members continue cleanup and recovery from last fall’s Hurricane Wilma. CREW was established in the wake of that storm, with help from the Florida Storm Recovery Center (SRC), which trained case managers and provided funding.
“To date, the Florida Conference has given approximately $155,000 in grants to First United Methodist Church, Moore Haven, and First United Methodist Church, Clewiston, (which) are the churches instrumental in forming CREW,” said Pam Garrison, SRC manager.
Besides Adams, CREW also employs a case manager supervisor and two case managers — all funded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Adams said UMCOR recently gave CREW the go-ahead to hire a construction coordinator and another case manager. CREW’s volunteer coordinator is paid by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. All positions are full time.

In the past CREW has also relied on First United Methodist Church of Clewiston, where Adams is a member, and First United Methodist Church of Moore Haven for office space. Now CREW’s office is located in the City of Clewiston Building and Zoning office. This is ideal, Adams said, because CREW frequently needs information from that office.
“(They) donated the back for us … it’s worked out really great because we can just walk up and ask them things,” Adams said.
Just days after Ernesto hit, CREW also participated in “Hurricane Information Day” at Moore Haven City Park. The event was sponsored by the Glades County Emergency Management Department. Free food, drinks and entertainment were provided, and CREW distributed balloons and candy. CREW also gave health kits and flood buckets provided by United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches to Ernesto victims.
Adams said other United Methodist groups have helped CREW in the past year — East Lake United Methodist Church in Palm Harbor, the disaster relief ministry at Grace United Methodist Church of Cape Coral and First United Methodist Church of Lakeland — but more help is needed.
“Right now we’re going through a lull in volunteers and we’ve actually had more local Methodist volunteers, which is good, because they’re the ones who can come for the off seasons,” Adams said.
Money is also needed because most of CREW’s available funds are earmarked for Hurricane Wilma recovery.
“It’s just one of those challenges when you have one of those disasters that’s not bad enough to qualify for government aid,” Garrison said. “It’s not really a hurricane — it really makes it a challenge to try and get the word out for these folks.”
For United Methodists who wish to offer their time, talent or gifts to assist Ernesto storm victims, there are several ways to help.

Volunteer workers who are located in the Glades and Hendry counties area should contact CREW volunteer coordinator Renee Mergott at 863-983-2390. Financial contributions can be sent to 352 W. Arcade Ave., Clewiston, FL 33440. Supplies, such as roofing equipment and drywall, are needed, and CREW can pick them up if they are within about a 60-mile radius of their offices. In total, 300 new roofs are needed, Adams said.

Volunteer workers who are outside the Glades and Hendry counties area should contact the SRC at 800-282-8011, extension 149, to register their interest in serving.

“A lot of our volunteer teams are going to Mississippi and Louisiana, but I don’t want them to forget the back yard,” Garrison said. “If there is a team that wants to go into any of these areas (in South Florida), we can identify what their gifts are and we can place them into those organizations.”
The advantage to volunteering through the SRC is that the center can ensure resources aren’t duplicated, Garrison said.
Monetary donations also can be made to the SRC by writing a check payable to “Florida Conference Treasurer” and marking it for storm recovery.
More information about CREW is available on its blog site at More information about the SRC is available at


This article relates to Disaster Response.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.