WE NEED IT NOW.'
Holston continues hurricane-relief efforts
By Annette Bender
On Sept. 1, the Rev. David Woody called a Florida hurricane-relief station to let them know his church had collected nonperishable foods and water, but the truck was only three-quarters full.
"Send it. We need it now," the Florida pastor told Woody. With the threat of Hurricane Frances following the devastation of Hurricane Charley,the disaster-relief worker urged Woody to get the truck on the road. By Sept. 2, supplies collected by a handful of churches in the Johnson City, Abingdon, and Big Stone Gap Districts were enroute to Jacksonville, Fla. Woody's church, Cherokee United Methodist, led the effort to fill the truck. Three churches in the Morristown and Knoxville areas sent a total of $900 for Cherokee volunteers to buy 50 cases of peanut butter and 10 cases of apple sauce, Woody said.
The Rev. Jeff Henderson, pastor at Oakleaf Christian Fellowship where Cherokee dispatched its truck, said the supplies would be met with appreciation. Henderson spoke with The Call about 36 hours before Frances was expected to land in Florida.
"It's very unsettling," Henderson said, describing the massive evacuation affecting his state. "There is a significant amount of displacement. Even if the hurricane doesn't hit Florida, people somewhere are going to be in need."
"I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say we're very grateful to the Holston Conference", he said.
Meanwhile in Wytheville District, churches collected "flood buckets" - kits that help people clean up after a flood storm - through Sept. 7. The intent is to help replenish buckets used by United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) during the eventful hurricane season, according to the Rev. Randy Frye. The buckets were to be dropped off at Dublin UMC or Mt. Pleasant UMC. District volunteers were scheduled to deliver the buckets to Sager Brown depot in Louisiana on Sept. 9 or 10.
Before most Holston groups could mobilize to help storm victims, Sand Mountain UMC in Chattanooga District had collected and delivered supplies to two United Methodist churches in Florida, according to the Rev. Greg Smart.
Drayton Holmes, Sand Mountain lay leader, and Calvin Whitley, council chair, gathered donations from church members to buy 200 cases of water and food, Smart reports. After a telephone call to the Florida Conference office, the supplies were delivered to Zolfo Springs, Fla., and Blowing Green, Fla., "exactly one week" after the hurricane had hit.
Also in Chattanooga District, the five churches that began collecting supplies immediately after the hurricane hit had nearly filled a 53-foot trailer by Sept. 1, according to the Rev. Benny Matherly. Ft. Oglethorpe UMC was joined by Signal Crest, Grace, St. Luke's and Wauhatchie - as well as two labor unions in the area - to supply items such as mattresses, diapers, and blankets.
Holston churches also responded by giving money. By Sept. 1, 35 congregations representing nine districts had submitted checks designated for hurricane relief to the treasurer 's office in Knoxville, for a total of $11,911.
The largest district-wide effort came from Morristown, with eight congregations giving a total of $3,750. The largest check amounts came from Ooltewah UMC in Cleveland District with $1,500, and First Newport UMC in Morristown District with $1,190.
By Sept. 1, conference mission leaders had also received enough calls from volunteers to assemble one and perhaps two work teams to personally help Floridians rebuild. According to Dwight Barker, disaster-relief coordinator, about 14 volunteers have stepped forward to help - about half clergy and half lay.
"We're in the process of doing paperwork now for the Florida Conference and assessing the work skills of our team members," Barker said. The teams are scheduled to work in Punta Gorda, Fla., later this month.
How to help
Holston members have the opportunity to replenish UMCOR flood buckets through an effort undertaken by the Rev. Harry Howe of Project Crossroads in Abingdon District. Howe will store flood buckets before delivering them to UMCOR later this month. For more information, contact Howe at (276) 782-3339. For instructions on assembling flood buckets, visit UMCOR's web site at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor.
To participate on Holston's response team, contact Barker by e-mail or (276) 356-2847.
Church members wishing to make financial gifts to help hurricane victims may make checks to their local churches, designating "UMCOR/hurricane relief" on the memo line. The tax-deductible gifts may be placed in offering plates. To make credit-card donations, call UMCOR directly at 1-800-554- 8583.
When submitting checks for Hurricane Charley relief, church officers may designate "Project 507"under "UMCOR" on their 2004 remittance forms.
For general information on how your group can help hurricane victims - or to report your church's own efforts - contact the connectional ministries office at (865) 690-4080 or by e-mail.
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