Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Visits Churches in the Panhandle
Reflection by Jim Pellot, St. Augustine Presbytery Disaster Assistance Commission
I was in a second group of National Response Team members of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance which was asked by the Florida Presbytery to visit 11 churches which experienced significant damage a month ago from Hurricane Michael. These churches were in a large geographic area extending from Panama City in the west to Port St. Joe in the south and to Quincy in the northeastern affected area of the presbytery.
We counseled the 11 churches on how to negotiate with their contractors and insurance companies and how to apply for grants from FEMA. Many churches had high insurance deductibles or no insurance. We encouraged church staff to work with church members on how to register for SBA and FEMA assistance for their own homes. We also provided a “ministry of presence” by just listening to people`s stories.
The tree damage was catastrophic in all areas. While tree removal crews were diligently working, it will take years to pick up all of the tree debris. Panama City was the hardest hit area. One pastor estimated that 100% of the congregation suffered damage and 80% of the members lost their homes. Churches and individual homes have roof tarps and are still working on mold and mildew remediation. At the time of this writing (late November), reconstruction had not started and streets are piled high with ruined home furnishings. Many businesses are still closed and people have moved away to find housing and jobs. One FEMA representative said that he commuted 2 hours one way each day to find a motel. If there is a good side to the disaster, no church reported that any church members were physically hurt.
Please consider a gift for hurricane relief by going to: www.pcusa.org/pda. You may also mail a check to:
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15204-3700
Note on your check “DR00194.”
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is offering immediate aid to the communities impacted by Hurricane Michael and continues to offer support to those impacted by other recent disasters including Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut. Will you stand in the “GAP” (Give/Act/Pray) to help the survivors of these terrible storms?
Hurricanes Michael and Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut have caused extensive damage and loss of life. Some of you have already given generously in previous weeks and we thank you. While the needs can feel overwhelming, continued prayer and giving will ensure that the whole church is able to respond. Gifts to DR000194 support our response to hurricanes and typhoons. Gifts can be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.
- Download and use the bulletin insert.
- Learn how you and your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed through the PDA website, on Facebook, download resources, and share updates with your congregation.
- If you would like to volunteer during the response phase, please register at www.volunteerflorida.org. Once the needs are determined by the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, Volunteer Florida will help organize and connect volunteers where the help is most needed.
- Although it is too early to schedule mission teams for Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, your willingness to serve is appreciated. Please send an email to PDA.CallCenter@pcusa.org with the following information: Name of church or organization, approximate number of volunteers, whether youth or adult, and your contact phone number. There are still immediate opportunities for mission teams to assist with Hurricane Irma recovery.
PRAY: As this hurricane and typhoon season continues to cause destruction and loss of life, please pray with us that the communities affected by these events and those offering assistance will be strengthened, have their needs met and be reminded of the hope found in God.
“Tools for Building Resilience: Team Support in the Workplace”
The Presbytery Disaster Assistance program is presenting a workshop “Tools for Building Resilience: Team Support in the Workplace.” Sponsored by United Way of Northeast Florida, this workshop focuses on building emotional and spiritual resiliency. Workshops will be on Friday, October 26 with morning and afternoon sessions available. There is no charge to register, but pre-registration by Monday, October 22 is encouraged. Click here for details and to register.