Wesley United Methodist Church– ground zero for coordination of Goodland relief efforts.
Kathy Curtis, a middle aged grandmother, came here to retire. Now she finds herself chairing one of the most ambitious relief efforts in Goodland’s history. Since early November, she has been working from a makeshift office in the copy room of the Wesley United Methodist Church (UMC) in Marco Island. She puts in 40- plus hour weeks coordinating the services of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). UMCOR, founded in 1940, has been devoted to easing conditions, around the world for victims of catastrophic disasters. They have responded to disasters around the world. In response to Hurricane Charley, in 2004, UMCOR established a Florida chapter, FLUMC, with headquarters in Lakeland, Florida.
UMCOR volunteers unload debris bags at the Community Center.
On Sunday, September 10, 2017, much of the nation watched, transfixed, as Hurricane Irma, after plowing a path of destruction in the Caribbean, took dead aim at Southwest Florida. One week later, the first crew of UMCOR’s relief personnel (all volunteers) arrived in Goodland. Pastor Kirk Dreiser, of Marco’s Wesley UMC became the point man. “Goodland was hit harder than any place I’ve seen,” said Dreiser, “I was appalled by the utter devastation and chaos which I saw.” Dreiser asked for help from UMCOR and got it quickly. On September 17, a construction crew from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, brought in heavy equipment and began cutting and removing downed trees from the streets of Goodland. They stayed for a week, sleeping on cots at the church and being fed by parishioners.
UMCOR volunteers during second cleanup on November 18.
On November 18, UMCOR brought in a second cleanup crew (plus two dumpsters), to clean up the detritus left over from the first cleanup. Fourteen volunteers came over from West Palm Beach. They recruited and organized local volunteers. The crews went “street by street” bagging the debris, followed by residents on golf carts who deposited the bags in the dumpsters. By the end of the day, both dumpsters had been filled to capacity.
Kathy Curtis, UMCOR’s Disaster Case Manager, at work in her church office. Photos by Barry Gwinn
Dreiser contacted GCA President, Greg Bello, to see what additional assistance UMCOR could provide. A lot as it turned out. The GCA was raising money for relief (over $40 K had come in), but lacked the expertise to see that the funds were
Curtis, at Goodland’s Holiday Bazaar, hands out relief applications and answers questions. She is talking to a petitioner, who for confidentiality purposes, is not pictured.
Pastor Kirk Dreiser and some of the “flood buckets” he asked for at the outset. After the storm, he asked UMCOR to send buckets with cleaning supplies. The buckets were disbursed from the Goodland Community Center.