Written by Carol Fouke-Mpoyo
This is a story about how people in two countries, two U.S. states and two cities kept 24 surplus bunk beds and six dressers from a wasteful end in a landfill by redeploying them to a United Church of Christ congregation that expects to start hosting disaster recovery work teams soon.
David Heald, UCC Florida Conference Disaster Coordinator for Northern Florida, tells the tale, which he says is a powerful example of the value of relationships:
"United Church of Christ disaster coordinators held their national meeting in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in February," David recounted. "Their agenda included a field trip to nearby Volusia County, where UCC volunteers Betzi Yungclas and Rich Tosh are helping the county's long-term recovery committee prepare to do case management for Hurricane Matthew survivors and receive work teams to help them repair and rebuild.
"According to one estimate, as many as 1,700 families will need some form of additional assistance to meet needs unmet by government and personal resources.
"Union Congregational UCC Church in Holly Hill, where I am a member, is converting its social hall into housing for volunteer work teams, who come for a week at a time. I mentioned that we were looking to get bunk beds to sleep up to 24 volunteers at a time.
"Among conference disaster coordinators at the meeting were Bill and Ellen Matten from Penn Central Conference. After the conference, they stopped to see a former UCC Partners in Service Long-Term Volunteer in Jacksonville, Fla. On their way home, the Mattens emailed me, excited to tell me about a transitional housing project their friend is working on that received free bunk beds from the University of North Florida.
"I messaged their friend, who gave me the contact information I needed to send a letter of request for our volunteer housing facility. The university donated 24 surplus bunk beds, including 24 mattresses, along with six dressers!"
So far in David's story, U.S. citizens in Pennsylvania and Florida, Jacksonville and Holly Hill have been players. Where's the Canadian? David explains.
"Dr. Wayne Russell - one of our 'northern friends' wintering here from Winnipeg, Canada – and I rented a 16-foot box truck and made the 165-mile round trip from Holly Hill to the Jacksonville campus warehouse. Upon return, there were 10 additional volunteers who met the truck, unloaded it and assembled the bunk beds. Talk about the value of relationships!"
UCC Disaster Ministries soon will be seeking volunteer mission teams to repair and rebuild homes in Volusia County, Fla. Teams will be able to find information about registering at http://www.ucc.org/disaster_disaster-volunteers.