Title: Lutherans in Florida Clean Up, Offer Emotional Care ELCA NEWS SERVICE
February 5, 2007
Lutherans in Florida Clean Up, Offer Emotional Care 07-017-MRC
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Lutherans in Florida are now cleaning up after severe thunderstorms and tornadoes swept through central Florida Feb. 2. According to Danielle Kearney, search and rescue efforts are complete and 20 people have been confirmed dead. Between 1,500 and 2,000 homes were damaged and/or destroyed in Lady, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties.
Kearney is director of church and community relations, Lutheran Services of Florida, Inc., Tampa, and a local Lutheran Disaster Response coordinator. Lutheran Disaster Response is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Lutheran Disaster Response is "providing emotional and spiritual care" for survivors, and "we're assembling groups to help clean up," said Kearney. She met with faith-based and state- government representatives Feb. 4 to put together a long-term disaster response plan for central Florida. "Already FEMA has received 1,100 applications from survivors for assistance," she said.
Kearney said there have been many offers for assistance from residents across Florida, particularly from a group of Lutheran pastors in Tampa who offered to help clean up. "The offers for help have been overwhelming," she said, adding that Lutheran Haven, a retirement center in Oviedo, Fla., is providing housing for elderly people who've lost their homes, and Lutheran congregations are donating quilts for survivors.
"Lutheran Services of Florida will be coordinating volunteers interested in serving the affected areas as long-term recovery begins," reported Heather L. Feltman, executive director, Lutheran Disaster Response. "Lutheran Counseling Services sent a team to visit the impacted counties to begin assessing the spiritual and emotional needs of those affected," she said.
There is a lot of need among survivors, as well as rebuilding needs, said Adam J. Bost, communication specialist, ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod, Tampa. He said there have been no reports of severe damage to ELCA church buildings.
"I drove down Highway 441 (Feb. 3) on my way to Leesburg" and "could not believe the devastation. The television pictures don't quite tell the story," said Val Neuhart, The Villages, Fla.
Neuhart, who serves as synod events coordinator and administrative assistant to the bishop, ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod, said "it was such an eerie sight to look east and west and just see everything wiped out, with pieces of insulation and other debris hanging from trees like some foreign-type moss. It really just breaks your heart to see it up close," she said. "I've noticed several vehicles throughout town that were evidently damaged by the tornado. They've got blown out windows and what looks like insulation sprayed all over them," said Neuhart. "Please keep all of the victims in your prayers." - - - DOMESTIC DISASTERS:
Editors: When listing organizations receiving funds to aid survivors of major disasters inside the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, please include: ELCA Domestic Disaster Response, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, Illinois 60694-1764 Credit card gift line: 1-800-638-3522 Credit card gifts via Internet: http://www.ELCA.org/disaster/ddrgive
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