UMCOR / Our Work / Disaster Response / Ongoing / Katrina & Rita / Bright Spots / Archives 2008 / 0221-UMCOR Helps Fund Recovery

UMCOR Bright Spots

February 21, 2008

*UMCOR Helps Fund Recovery All Along Gulf Coast
*Local Case Managers and Volunteers Keep Spirits Up
* This Week's Quote
* Recovery Stats
* Miss Lucy and CRWRC Volunteers...(slide show)


By Susan J. Meister, Gulf Coast Communications

In October 2005, a hurricane-weary nation experienced Wilma, the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. After destroying parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, Wilma turned northeast and crossed southern Florida in four and a half hours on October 24.

Through the generosity of donors, UMCOR was able to help several annual conferences, including Florida, respond to the damage left in the wake of Wilma and the other storms of 2005. “We used funds from UMCOR to support a number of local organizations mobilized to help with relief and recovery in the southern part of the state,” explained Marilyn Swanson, Project Director, Disaster Recovery Ministry, Florida Annual Conference.

Local United Methodist church takes lead in relief and recovery efforts

Homeowners Joachin and Rachel are grateful to construction coordinator Anthony Dukes (center) and the whole staff at CREW for helping them rebuild their home.

Homeowners Joachin and Rachel are grateful to construction coordinator Anthony Dukes (center) and the whole staff at CREW for helping them rebuild their home.
Photo by Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

Rev. John Hicks is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Clewiston, Fl. Located in Hendry County on the southwest corner of Lake Okeechobee, Clewiston is a town of about 6,500 people. In September, 2005, Hicks had worked to revitalize the Clewiston Ministerial Association around a benefit for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. A month later, Wilma roared through town. The church became a key distribution center for relief supplies, and Hicks was asked by the mayor to take the lead in establishing a long term recovery organization (LTRO) for Hendry and nearby Glades County. C.R.E.W. (Community Rebuilding Ecumenical Workforce) was launched— drawing strong ecumenical, community and business support. The Florida Conference assigned Gricel Hernandez to be the Disaster Recovery Representative for the area, to offer organizational advice, network with vital contacts, and provide encouragement.

Over two years after the LTRO began its work, Executive Director Trish Adams can point to a number of accomplishments. “Since our inception, we have hosted 515 volunteers, who have logged over 15,000 hours of work making repairs to walls, ceilings, floors, roofs, cabinets, siding, skirting, and windows, and doing demolition and debris cleanup,” she said. Local churches have hosted groups with housing and meals.

“In all, we have assisted over 765 families in the two counties,” Adams continued. “Our case managers have done a remarkable job to reach and assist homeowners.”

The “house made out of miracles”

C.R.E.W. has completed one rebuild for Mr. Joachin and Miss Rachel. The homeowners and staff are eager to relate story after story to prove that the new home is a “house made out of miracles.”

The very day that the case manager interviewed the couple, who were an unexpected addition to the contact list, a volunteer group from Indiana called to say they wanted to come and build a house.

“The deadline was impossible,” said Mr. Joachin, “but the Lord’s hand was in it! The day we poured the concrete, it rained all around us, everywhere but at our house!”

After the initial blitz, volunteers from Maine, Michigan, Washington, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland helped. “I used to make fun of snowbirds,” Mr. Joachin laughed. “I don’t anymore!”

More than rebuilds

Trish Adams

Trish Adams, CREW Executive Director, holds one of the “thank you” signs that Joachin and Rachel put out along their fence to thank a volunteer group.
Photo by Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

Through their partnership with Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Program, C.R.E.W. is also involved with the Mitigation Program (through My Safe Florida Home) and the FEMA Close-Out Program. Through mitigation, homeowners strengthen their homes against natural disasters. (Mr. Joachin’s home will have shutters installed as part of this program.) The FEMA Close-Out Program helps survivors find permanent housing solutions, including helping pay to site and set up mobile homes according to county regulations. C.R.E.W. set a goal to mitigate 100 homes in the two counties, and to complete mobile home set up by the end of January 2008.

There is still substantial rebuilding and repair work to complete in Hendry and Glades Counties. C.R.E.W. is continuing to solicit funding and volunteers. For more information, go to their website and blog spot.

For more on the United Methodist recovery work visit these web sites:

UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief)
UM News Service
Mississippi Conference
Louisiana Conference
Texas Conference
Alabama-West Florida Conference