Update from the Florida Conference on tornado recovery effort

February 15, 2007

On February 2, 2007 tornadoes went through central Florida to the east coast. Following is an update from the Rev. Karen Thompson, Minister for Disaster Response and Recovery.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you for the phone calls, e-mails and outpouring of support and prayers for individuals and families whose lives were affected by the tornados this past weekend. I sincerely appreciate your prayers and support which are keeping me going as I respond on behalf of you and our Florida Conference congregations following these tornados which touched down across the state on Friday morning, February 2. The latest damage report is below:

Damages Reported


Total number of households: 1544
Major Damage/Destroyed: 890

I was able to go through some of the areas that were hardest hit, in particular DeLand, New Smyrna Beach, The Villages and Lady Lakes. Our Pastors and congregations in DeLand, New Smyrna and The Villages are willing and preparing to help with the recovery and rebuild efforts when those are underway. Many of you in Florida are wondering what you can do to help. I want to let you know what you can do by way of volunteers, health kits, and material donations.

Volunteers

The Florida VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) has convened regularly since Friday afternoon via conference calls and a called meeting on Sunday afternoon in The Villages. At this time, voluntary organizations are being asked to hold off on bringing volunteers to the areas. This holds for Volusia as well as Lake and Sumter Counties. While initial clean-up is being facilitated we are organizing to have mechanisms in place for the long-term volunteer needs which will be required to help these communities recover. We appreciate those who are ready to work within these communities, and ask for patience and respect for the process in place and at work in these communities. We want to be sure we are helping and not hindering recovery efforts.

The congregation in The Villages is identifying housing for volunteers. A member of that congregation is providing a house and others signed up to host volunteers in their homes. We can not bring in volunteers to work without identifying accommodations which include housing, showers and meals or the ability to prepare meals. Members of this congregation are also organizing around meal preparation. The congregation in New Smyrna Beach has also agreed to help with housing volunteers. We will be identifying other UCC congregations in the surrounding area that will be able to help with these much needed efforts. We have also identified individuals who are willing to serve on the Long Term Recovery Committees in these counties.

If you have individuals in your congregations who are skilled and interested in volunteering, please have them give me a call… 786-374-5542. I am compiling a list of churches and persons who want to volunteer. As soon as we are able to take volunteer work teams into the area we will let you know. In the meantime, we are making the necessary preparations to accommodate the work teams. We will be working with VIND (Volusia Interfaith/Interagency Networking in Disaster) and LASER (Lake and Sumter Emergency Response Committee). These are the long term recovery organizations serving these areas.

Health Kits

In the immediate aftermath of the tornados, some of the shelters were able to use health kits that were brought in. That need has dissipated. If you have not spoken with me and have health kits that are already made and can store them, please do so or you can send them to the Conference office. From there, they will be taken to Church World Service. If you have not prepared any kits, please hold off on doing so at this time.

Material Donations

Some of you have indicated you have other items to donate. We ask that you not send used clothing items into these areas. Virtual warehouses are being brought on line so that items for donation that be registered on line to see if they are needed. At the website items to be donated can be registered so that communities can get the items they need. As soon as the warehouses are up and running for these specific counties, you will receive that information. You will also be informed of any special requests as they are made known to members of the FL VOAD.

Please feel free to call or e-mail with your questions or concerns. Know that the efforts of the Florida Conference United Church of Christ Disaster Response Ministries are reflected in the collective response coming into these counties. Our goal is to be present long-term in these communities through what is estimated as a 3-5 year recovery period, even as we are present in those communities still recovering from the devastating effects of the 2004 and 2005 hurricane season, and those who were affected by the tornados on Christmas Day.

Your continued prayers and support are requested and much needed as we walk with those who will rebuild their lives and homes once again. Peace and blessings…

Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, Minister for Disaster Response & Recovery
Florida Conference United Church of Christ
305-758-4845 (O) OR 1-800-416-1147; 786-374-5542 (C)

How you can help

1. Pray for people who live in communities affected by tornadoes.

2.  To help those affected by disasters you may, send gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Emergency USA " with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.

Or

3. Send gifts, made out to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Emergency USA"  to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources; Wider Church  Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

Or

4. Make a secure online donation now.

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