FL renews call for volunteers

Responders in Florida are urging people to volunteer to help with long-term recovery from last year’s hurricanes.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | August 24, 2005



"They need somebody to just talk with them, to relay to them that there is ongoing support."

—Lin Arnold-Skrovanek


Responders in Florida are urging people to volunteer to help with long-term recovery from last year’s hurricanes.

But they need to safely wait out Tropical Storm Katrina first - then affiliate themselves with one of the many responding groups in the state.

“We still have rebuilding that needs to be done in a lot of the counties throughout FLorida,” said Lin Arnold-Skrovanek, volunteer coordinator for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church disaster recovery ministries.

Because of the extreme heat in Florida this summer, there was a drop in the number of volunteers, she said. “People may not feel health-wise they can work in heat,” said Arnold-Skrovanek.

There is a lot of work to do, ranging from completely rebuilding homes, to making minor repairs, to simply providing a ministry of presence for stressed-out hurricane survivors. Many of them may feel isolated, said Arnold-Skrovanek, and the Florida conference has been working to put together “care ministry teams.” Volunteers will be recruited to reach out to hurricane survivors who just need a listening ear.

“They need somebody to just talk with them,” explained Arnold-Skrovanek, “to relay to them that there is ongoing support.” Training for volunteers will be provided by the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Arnold-Skrovanek and other responders were also asking churches - especially those with shower facilities - to house volunteers.

“We need to build relationships with churches that can provide housing for volunteers coming from out of state,” said Marilyn Swanson, project director for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church disaster recovery ministries. “We need churches to step forward to do that.”

Throughout the state, local communities are reporting needs that have been lingering for a year. In DeSoto County alone, there are 1,200 cases on file with DeSoto Disaster Recovery, said the Rev. Ted Land, pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Arcadia, Florida. “Some are minor repairs and some are rebuilds,” he said.

Land and other clergy in DeSoto County have been working together to coordinate volunteer teams since last year. “We have had between 5,000-6,000 volunteers total,” said Land.

DeSoto County primarily needs skilled volunteers - people who can do roofing and drywall, for example, said Land. “But we need people who can handle a paint brush, too,” he added.

Land and others say they’ll need volunteers for the next 2-3 years - and that’s not counting the damage this year’s storms could bring.

Land agreed with Arnold-Skrovanek that finding housing for volunteers can be a challenge. “But for those who have RVs, or travel trailers, we have created two areas where they can have free electric, water and sewer while they are here.”


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