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‘Frustrated, tired, weary’

For many Floridians struck by hurricanes, it's hard to know where to turn for help.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | October 4, 2004


"We respond to people based on need."

—Bill Wealand


For many Floridians struck by hurricanes, it's hard to know where to turn for help. The United Church of Christ (UCC) is offering workshops to help people figure it all out -- and talk through the stress.

Aimed at assisting families hit hard by the hurricanes, the Florida conference of the UCC planned the workshops to get the word out about what they can offer. "These information sessions are for people who will probably become long-term unmet needs cases - those whose homes were over 50% damaged," said Bill Wealand, disaster response coordinator for the Florida conference of the UCC.

The sessions will offer information about how the UCC can assist families with building materials and volunteer work groups, allowing the families to - as Wealand put it - "stretch their insurance and (Federal Emergency Management Agency) money."

The information sessions begin this week, with one on Wednesday in Ormond Beach, Fla. Two others are scheduled for the coming weeks, one in North Port and another in the Palm Bay area.

Response to the workshops has been excellent so far, said Wealand. "We're contacting all our clergy to let them know, we're doing local publicity and inviting everyone to come. One minister said he'd already gotten 46 people to sign up." He added that the workshops are not just for members of the UCC, they are for anyone who wants to be there.

"We respond to people based on need," he said.

The idea for the workshops came from the UCC clergy around the state, though. Wealand received many calls asking about how the denomination could help local congregations after the hurricanes. "We hope the workshops will answer those questions and help the process move along," he explained.

Offers to help are another way the recovery process will move along in Florida. Wealand said he's also been inundated with calls from all over the country from churches and groups willing to donate their time. "We're hoping to establish three volunteer 'stay' centers to host these volunteer groups over the long-term."

Several churches across Florida have agreed to keep donated trailers on their grounds for the groups to live in during their volunteer times. Wealand added that many of the churches in Florida are excited to help out any way they can.

After four hurricanes in a span of two months, residents are storm weary. And with a recovery process that could last three to five years, the residents are also becoming stressed out.

"One of the earliest signs of stress is irritability and there is a lot of that now, understandably," Wealand said. "People are frustrated, tired, and weary. Some of them have been hit three times now. We're just doing what we can to offer a little bit of hope."


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