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Mennonites begin process of rebuilding


CENTRAL FLORIDA (April 30, 1998) -- Dedicated volunteers from around the country have begun to rebuild the

first of more than 100 homes destroyed by violent central Florida storms

this year.

As part of a Community Development Block Grant secured by Seminole County,

$20,000 of building materials are being supplied for each of the first

seven homes to be rebuilt. Thanks to an expedited county permit process and

funding for much of the building materials, volunteers with Mennonite

Disaster Services (MDS) started work in early April on the first three


According to Lester Glick, project director for MDS, the agency hopes to be

able to build seven 1,200 square foot homes by the end of the summer.

Volunteers from other organizations will join MDS later this Spring to

provide relief for more of the people who have been left homeless by what

has been called, some of the most violent weather in Central Florida


As a result of a series of storms that included severe flooding and

tornadoes, as many as 3,000 homes may have been damaged in the three

hardest hit counties of Seminole, Osceola and Orange, according to Jody

Hill, executive director of Florida Interfaith Natural Disaster (FIND).

FIND provides coordination and funding assistance to local interfaith

organizations that are being formed in the disaster-striken area.

Although not all of the assessments have been finished, Hill said FIND

members believe there may be at least 100 homes that will need to be

rebuilt. Unlike the block grant monies available in Seminole County, many

of the rebuilds will depend on funds provided by the Federal Emergency

Management Agency (FEMA), insurance claims and donations, she said.

Local interfaith organizations in each disaster area will help coordinate

assistance to victims as final assessments are completed. Other faith-based

organizations including the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Lutheran

Disaster Relief, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance are all expected to

provide funding and/or volunteers to aid in the long-term efforts during

the next six to 12 months.

In Seminole County, however, residents may be able to move into the first

of the Mennonite-built homes as early as June.

In nearly all cases, the new homes will be better than the ones that were

destroyed and the homeowners get a chance to play an integral part in

deciding the design and colors of their homes, Glick said.

"We will give them more space and make the house more secured than what

they had before," Glick said. "They never expected to have a house of this

kind of construction with the different appointments and finishing

touches." Labor is being provided by volunteer teams from up and down the

east coast who come to Florida to work for a week. Some are retired but

others have arranged time off from employers to help disaster victims. In

many cases, they have helped in other disasters and are excited to be

involved again, he said.

"It's a catching mania. One of the best resources we have are the people

who have done

it before," Glick said. "It's an exciting opportunity to be a part of this

kind of thing."

"Our hammer brings us together for a common noise, but our spirits bring us

together for a common purpose."

Posted April 30, 1998

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