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Even in the midst of a disaster, Florida United Methodists still focus on serving

Even in the midst of a disaster, Florida United Methodists still focus on serving

Disaster Recovery

Scenes from Florida United Methodists at work to comfort and support those affected by Hurricane Ian.

Janet Earls, the Director of Church Vitality and Leadership Development for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, was struck by the work of smaller churches in the affected area.

Earls joined fellow Conference employees Laurie Hofts and Holly Finley on an inspection tour in areas hit hard by Ian.
She saw members of Cleveland UMC in Punta Gorda hard at work in the aftermath of the storm, providing needed supplies to their neighbors.

"They are well connected to local food banks," Earls said. "They were taking in so much food and giving it away to those in need. And when we visited there, one thing we didn't expect was that the church gave us so much stuff to take to the next place we were headed to.

"One pastor said to us, 'Please come back. Don't forget about us.'" she said. "We won't forget."

Cleveland Pastor Sam Rodriguez also worked with law enforcement to help shelter homeless people in the church's Fellowship Hall for the storm

They encountered a volunteer at Friendship UMC, also in Punta Gorda. She asked what she could do to help, and since the church had power, she was told it could serve as a comfort station. That's a place with air conditioning, snacks, and places for people without electricity to charge their phones and other electronics.

Earls said, "The lady said, 'Oh, we can do that.' And they did."

Rev. Debbie Daley Salinger did the same at Wesley Fort Myers, turning it into a comfort station for people to cool off and charge devices.

FIRST BRADENTON UMC: South West District Superintendent Debbie Allen reported that First Bradenton members left nearly $1,000 on the communion rail on the first Sunday in October.

SHARING COMMUNION: Rev. Allen also told of Rev. Marcus Zillman from Cypress Lake UMC in Fort Myers, who had been evacuated to Boca Raton.

At his hotel, he found other people from Fort Myers, and they ended up sharing communion.

GIVING IT ALL: Rev. Shannon Harris, who serves Anthony UMC in Anthony and St. John's-Cotton Plant UMC in Ocala,
Both churches told her to send their entire Sunday offerings to hurricane relief. 

FIRST WAUCHULA UMC: In conjunction with Sonny's BBQ, Rev. Ken Kirk's church served 800 meals in one night to people in his hard-hit area.

Though exhausted, he recognized the community deeply needed his church. So, even though the church had no electricity, it held Sunday services with the doors open while gearing up to feed another 800 people the next night.

GRACE CHURCH CAPE CORAL: They were a beacon of hope and service in their community.

The church set up a distribution center on its Cape Coral campus, served hot meals to the community, and offered worship. Members went into the community and assisted in the massive cleanup, delivered desperately needed supplies, and recruited leaders for disaster recovery teams.

"Our teams are good and tired from a full day of serving our community! We're grateful for the many volunteers who showed up to help today! God is at work in our midst," the church said in a Facebook message.

Rev. Arlene Jackson worked tirelessly in the recovery effort, even though she lost everything when her house flooded.

Cleanup buckets -- Photo from Cypress Lake UMC Facebook

CYPRESS LAKE UMC: In addition to serving as a staging area for the relief effort, the church unloaded and delivered thousands of cleanup buckets to flooded homes and drinking water and other supplies.

Members also volunteered for major cleanup work in areas that needed it most.

Do you know a story of good work by United Methodists amid this disaster? Please forward the information to News Content Editor Joe Henderson.

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