George Harrell, Plantation UMC
The Team that will not Go Away
Introduction: This is a story about a blessing that occurred for a volunteer work team at Plantation, Florida United Methodist Church (PUMC) starting in year 2004 after several hurricanes hit South Florida and that blessing has continued to this day. This will become clear as one reads on.
In The Beginning: The first Hurricane to come ashore was Charlie. The Senior Pastor asked a church member to establish procedures for collecting money for UMCOR to financially assist those communities devastated by the storm. From such an unexpected beginning, a great story unfolded as confirmed below.
Getting Started: When an appeal went out to church members to provide financial support for families in the storm-stricken areas, the response was overwhelming. In addition to providing money, a church work team of three people went to one of the “hit areas,” took several flood buckets and provided cleanup work. When that team returned home and reported of the enormous damage and emotionally distraught families, a new volunteer work team was formed and the rest is history.
Team Motto: The team motto is “We always try to help one in need, never saw a job we did not like, and (regarding demolition) we can tear up anything.” The team also boasts no team complaints are on file with The Better Business Bureau.
Shoulder to the Wheel: From September 2004 until October 2005 about 50 church members volunteered to serve on the team. Individual teams of between 5 and 15 members went to several Florida cities often twice weekly for cleanup and temporary roof/building repairs. Contributing greatly to the team effort was one worker owned a New Holland tractor, which accompanied the team, and that vehicle was worth at least 50 workers. All work was coordinated through Florida Conference personnel, who were of great help for team results. The team made almost 100 work trips, and provided over 5000 hours of work during this time. Two members of another local UM Church that did not have a work team, joined PUMC’s team and remain to this day.
Brother/Sister Keeper: In year 2005 the PUMC Disaster Team created a comprehensive program whereby every church member was assigned to a disaster worker to ensure pre-storm and after-storm assistance was available. Emphasis placed on the program greatly increased personnel awareness to timely prepare for storms. Several inactive church members became active due to this attention.
Plans Change: In October 2005 the team was preparing to go to New Orleans and work one week after Hurricane Katrina struck there. However, plans changed when Hurricane Wilma visited the Plantation Area just prior to planned departure, so the team stayed home for the next year and half caring for local residents and areas. The number of team members increased and the team usually worked five instead of two days each week. Help was provided to anyone in need, regardless of church status. Total hours worked were not recorded but are many.
From Storm Damage to Other Help: After Wilma cleanup was completed the team continued being pro-active with a different type of community volunteer work. Seven (7) examples are cited below reflective of team outreach efforts. Almost daily, assistance is provided residents by painting, fixing electrical appliances, removing trees and other yard debris, repairing roofs, maintaining church grounds and buildings, etc. Although the teams have not accepted any money for work completed, some of those helped have sent financial appreciation gifts to our church.
1. Massive Stroke: A church member suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. For three months during his illness and care at a Rehab facility, a 40-person support team stayed with him for a time period each day so his wife could continue working. Members of the team also provided renovations to his home to be compatible with handicapped features. The team has continued keeping this family “under its wing” with home support. One of the workers is not a church member, but an honorary team member and surely on God’s Team.
2. Single Parent Mother: The team worked several days renovating a trailer home for a single parent mother in need of assistance with two teen-age children. That home was unlivable when work started but most livable when work finished.
3. Medically Handicapped: An elderly man was in dire need of help. The team renovated his home, removed debris from his yard, and continued providing support until he passed away. That person was not a member of our church but his family was so impressed with the assistance he received, they requested team members be pallbearers at his funeral, which was graciously obliged.
4. Sister Church: Five years ago a former Associate Pastor of PUMC moved to another church as Senior Pastor. Her church later did some renovations and asked the team to assist, which was done, saving the church considerable money.
5. Church Renovation: Six years ago PUMC began an extensive building renovation program and since money was a factor, the team completed demolition and renovation work saving the church thousands of dollars.
6. Net-Working – From January thru March 2013, the team worked with a UMC Mission Group in Haiti by meeting personnel arriving at the Miami, FL International Airport (15 trips) with suitcases (54) filled with shoulder satchels (1916) made by Haitian workers, stored that material at PUMC until June when the satchels were taken to Tampa, FL for gifts to personnel attending the International UMC Conference.
7. Red Cross Agreement - PUMC & The American Red Cross entered into an agreement in 2005, still in effect, whereby the church releases Fellowship Hall to the Red Cross as an after storm shelter. Two weeks after the signing, over 3000 Hurricane Katrina survivors used the facility. Then two months later, The Hall was used again for Hurricane Wilma’s aftermath.
Safety First: This has always been a factor with the teams. Of the hundreds of trips made and thousands of hours worked only one minor reportable accident occurred. Also work has only been terminated for a portion of one day due to weather. While luck may have been involved, the team maintains, “His eye was on the sparrow but we know He was watching us!”
Summary: What’s the worth of all the above? Smaller jobs, – tens of dollars, medium jobs, – hundreds of dollars, large jobs, – thousands of dollars, --- but everyday little jobs, --- priceless!
Ending: So why does this story begin with the claim of a blessing for the helper, not the helped? Because after the work, team members felt blest seeing smiles, appreciation, and love expressed on faces helped. This Team will never go away!
Up October 29…
Ruth Mageria, Executive Director of CROS Ministries
The disciple shares how she has learned that the Lord’s harvest is plentiful, how she is grateful that God has called her to be his hands and feet in mission with Him, and that to be in mission with God is as simple as looking at what God is doing around you and joining in.