When Hurricane Ivan hit the Florida coast last fall, its devastation was overwhelming and heart breaking. Brown Pearson, the leader of the Presbytery’s Disaster Response Ministry, called for volunteers and organized a trip in October. Then another in January. Learning how many homes were still in need of repair, Brown gathered another team to make a third trip in May. They went not only to repair homes, but most of all to convey the love and compassion of Christ to those who had lost so much.
On May 13, the team of 12 left for Wauchula, Florida, making the 900-mile trip in 14 hours by driving straight through. An organization there provided the group with a place to stay in a nursing home where they could sleep, eat, and shower each day. They had also screened requests for assistance and provided most of the materials to do the needed work.
During the week, the presbytery' Disaster Relief volunteers were able to assist five families.
In the first two homes, Brown noted, “We installed interior doors, base and ceiling trim, a water heater, and a toilet. We also painted the home inside from top to bottom. In the second home, we also installed the shower and bathroom vanity. The owner was so excited to see this that he stayed every day and worked right alongside our volunteers.”
At the third home, they assisted the owner with replacing walls and flooring that was unusable with new materials. In the fourth, they replaced all the wallboard in the utility room and back bedroom, did the finish work, and then painted.
POJ’s Disaster Relief Ministry will be conducting a fourth trip to Florida in October 2023. Their efforts will be centered again in the town of Wauchula (marked with the red pin). The first two trips were to the area marked by the yellow pin. Volunteers of all skill levels are needed to help with home repairs. A cook also would be helpful. To volunteer for this trip or ask questions, email ministry leader Brown Pearson or call him at 804-347-8895.
The last job was small, but heartwarming. Mr. Ulrich, who lives alone and uses a walker, was still living in his flooded, condemned house. The house was in terrible condition. He had been given a trailer to live in, but could not be persuaded to move. His reason was that his television and landline phone were in the house and not in the trailer, and he depended on these important means of communication and connection.
Two experienced members of the team moved his cable wire, the television, the phone wiring, and the phone. Then they told Mr. Ulrich they would be back the next day to help him move. When they returned, he was visibly excited as they packed up the house and then unpacked everything into the trailer. At the end of the second day, Mr. Ulrich was able to walk with his walker into his new housing. He was overjoyed to be in his new home! And so was everyone else!
Thanks to the volunteers from Presbytery of the James for the generous gift of their time and skills: Brown Pearson, Ken Brammer, David and Lori Fehr, Dick Mahlman, Jeff McDonald, Wade Palmer, Stan Parcell, Barry Rae, Same Sears, Clay Spillman, Dennis Store, and Bob Tully.