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Florida United Methodists begin cleanup from Fay

Florida United Methodists begin cleanup from Fay

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida United Methodists begin cleanup from Fay

Aug. 22, 2008     News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0902}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

LAKELAND — With Tropical Storm Fay still swirling over parts of Florida, United Methodists in the state are beginning to assess the damage and coordinate relief efforts.

The eye of Tropical Storm Fay hovers near the east coast of Florida Aug. 20 at 2:35 p.m. (EST), and clouds from the storm stretch hundreds of kilometers eastward over the Atlantic and northward over Georgia and South Carolina. Photo by NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Photo #08-0976.

“We are receiving reports of catastrophic flooding and debris in parts of the state,” said Marilyn Swanson, director of the Florida Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry. “We are trying to anticipate the needs that will be arising in the next few days.”

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker is in the process of asking the United Methodist Committee on Relief for an emergency $10,000 grant to help with assistance efforts.

In addition, Nick Elliott, the executive director of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission for the Southeastern Jurisdiction, has contacted Swanson about the need for possible relief teams in the future. The partnership between the Florida Conference and UMVIM, Swanson said, allows for better coordination of relief efforts from outside Florida should they be needed.

Swanson said her office is currently in the process of pre-positioning flood buckets and FEMA tarps for the conference’s South West District to be used after the damage assessments are completed in Glades County and residents are allowed to return to their homes.

With the storm stalled out over the eastern coast of Florida for many hours, some catastrophic flooding has also been reported in the conference’s Atlantic Central District. More than 33,000 Floridians were without power Thursday morning, 10,000 of them in Brevard County alone.

Several roads in the southwest part of the state are impassable and may have suffered structural damage, according to the Rev. Thom Street, pastor of Moore Haven United Methodist Church and the South West District disaster coordinator.

Swanson and her team of district disaster coordinators, field staff and staff located at the Conference Center in Lakeland meet by conference call every day at 11 a.m. during a storm event. Information is shared and plans are put into motion for response.

In Glades County near Lake Okeechobee, some homes have been completely destroyed, according to reports from that area. The area received upwards of 15 inches of rain from Fay. In the area around Immokalee in Collier County, some damage to mobile homes is reported.

Mark Thomas, director of the Florida Conference Department of Ministry Protection, said Aug. 21 that four churches had reported minor damage, including First United Methodist Church in Hobe Sound, which was looted during the storm.

According to the Rev. Roy Terry, pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples, there was some flooding in the area, but “Naples is back to normal.”

In the North East District of the conference, Will Clark, the district’s disaster coordinator, said they are still anticipating the brunt of the storm. Four churches in the district, he said, have been previously identified as collection points for relief supplies should they become needed.

The conference is poised to provide flood buckets and other relief supplies, Swanson said. Currently, more than 1,400 flood buckets are stored in the conference’s disaster recovery warehouse in Madison, about an hour outside of Tallahassee.

Churches throughout the conference are being asked to notify Swanson’s office if they have flood buckets or FEMA tarps stored at their church by calling 800-282-8011, extension 149, or e-mailing

United Methodists are also being asked to help restock their local food pantry or food bank. Recovery from flood damage, Swanson said, is a long-term effort, and many people will be relying on food donations, possibly depleting already strained local food banks.

Volunteers will also be needed, Swanson said, to muck out flooded homes. That work won’t begin, she said, until it is safe for people to enter those areas and the water has receded. Individuals who would like to volunteer may visit and complete the online registration form.


*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.