Members of a volunteer team from the North Georgia Conference clean out a home in Fort Myers, Florida, that was flooded by Hurricane Ian. (Photo: Mike DuBose, UM News)

ATLANTA – Sixty-nine-year-old Jane* sat under a tree with three piles at her feet: papers to throw away, papers to burn, papers to keep.

She fingered crayon drawings, her mother’s death certificate and stacks of birthday cards.

“I’ve been dreading this,” she said. “I was hoping another hurricane would come and blow it all away.”

Since Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, Florida, in Sept. 2022, Jane and her 31-year-old son have been living in a donated RV until their house can be made livable again. Household items are piled up under tarps in the yard. A shed and two trailers hold more belongings.

Hurricane Ian is the third-costliest weather disaster on record in the United States, and the deadliest hurricane to strike the state of Florida since 1935.

A $2 million UMCOR grant to the Florida Annual Conference of the UMC is assisting survivors like Jane and her son. It is also providing aid to people affected by Hurricane Nicole, which followed two months after Ian in Nov. 2022.

An UMCOR-trained Early Response Team works to repair a home that was damaged in Florida during the 2022 hurricane season. (Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Warren)

The grant helps provide long-term recovery to 165 households – nearly 400 individuals – who are among the most vulnerable members of the affected communities, including single parents, those with disabilities, the elderly and recent retirees without community ties.

Among other services, survivors will have their homes repaired, rebuilt or replaced, depending on their level of need. Some may be relocated. They will also get help fulfilling any remaining unmet needs through community partnerships and collaborative efforts.

Thanks to UMCOR’s informed and reliable infrastructure, expert leadership and experienced volunteers, every dollar received is leveraged to work as hard as possible.

For example, this past summer, the grant was buttressed by the sweat equity of 100 volunteer construction teams totaling a crew of about 600 volunteers. The value of their donated labor is approximately $380,000.

Forrest White, director of missions for the First United Methodist Church of Lakeland, Florida, was among the volunteers who reached out to Hurricane Ian survivors this past summer.

In addition to digging trenches, Forrest also took time to help Jane through the heartbreaking process of sorting through a lifetime of water-logged keepsakes.

Forrest listened to Jane’s stories and chatted with her son, who asked thoughtful questions about his faith in Christ.

“When the next big storm comes,” the son told Forrest, “I would like to help.”

“I believe we left them better than we found them,” says Forrest of his time spent with Jane and her son. “And, as always, we were better, too, because of them and what they shared with us.”

As extreme weather events intensify across North America – especially between May and November – UMCOR continues to empower volunteers like Forrest to be reminders of God’s presence in the world.

“Scripture tells us that we are called to nothing less than to show our Christian love in action,” says Forrest. “If we show up for people affected by disaster…we are tangible reminders of God’s love and God’s presence.”

*Name changed to protect privacy

U.S. Disaster Response

United Methodist Committee on Relief U.S. Disaster Response and Recovery (UMCOR USDR) serves as the primary channel for United Methodist assistance for disasters that strike within the United States.

Make a gift to help UMCOR provide for the basic needs of people and communities devastated by both natural and humanmade disasters.