Life in Peace River After Hurricane Ian

by General Presbyter Melana Scruggs



September 28 changed so much for so many, except the fact that God is good and is always at work. For those whose lives were not so affected, it is easy to lost track of the many ways people and congregations have responded out of their love for God. Let me share some of what Peace River has experienced.

In October, the Steering Committee set up a task force, consisting of Linda Getzen, Beverly Grady, Rob Marrow, and Bruce Wismer, to address the needs from Hurricane Ian and to decide how best to utilize the funds received.

Many people experienced tremendous devastation and even loss of life. Three of our churches cannot be used for worship and one of them is clearly a total loss. But we have seen tremendous generosity and outpouring of love.

Most churches in the presbytery found a way to worship on October 2, even if it was outside. 

PDA responders showed up on the Tuesday after the storm and stayed through the weekend. A national offering has been opened for hurricane relief for the three hurricanes that have caused devastation this season – Fiona, Ian, and Nicole. We received and distributed an initial grant from PDA of $7500 to address the immediate community needs. Five of our churches received funds from that grant, all to address the food insecurity that comes after a storm.

The Tuesday after the storm, the PDA volunteers and I met with staff from Church of the Palms to see how they might facilitate mitigation and repair work. The staff at the church immediately set up a system for taking needs and meeting them with volunteers. It has been a tremendous support to the presbytery and to me personally. They have provided ongoing support to several churches and some vital personal and financial resources to some smaller congregations that had tremendous damage.

The Presbytery of Tropical Florida, no stranger to storms themselves, contacted me the day after the storm with encouragement and support. The Council there voted to donate their hurricane preparedness funds for the year and ask the churches there to match them. We received $70,000 from Tropical Florida Presbytery for hurricane relief within two weeks after the storm. Since then we have received another $17,000 from the churches in Tropical Florida for direct, undesignated aid. We have already allocated over $50,000 of those funds to churches for their damage and immediate needs. What a wonderful example of being a connectional church.

Dawn Mayes, now the pastor of First, Fernandina Beach, in north Florida, contacted me two days after the hurricane and asked what would be helpful. I told her that gift cards for gas and food would be helpful for those who had lost so much. That church sent us $8460 worth of gift cards, which have been shared with five ministries to help alleviate some of the needs in the hardest hit communities.

Chapel by the Sea had no place to worship after Ian. Cypress Lake immediately offered to have them worship with them or provide space for them. Chapel has offices now at Cypress Lake and the two churches are currently worshiping together. Again, connectionalism at its best.

First Bonita Springs, First Naples, and Venice Presbyterian have all provided funds for two of the churches that have lost everything to allow them to continue their ministry. Several churches have sent groups of people to help other congregations who were hit harder by Ian. It is a real joy to share together in ministry.

The Board of Pensions has given over 50 $1000 grants to employees of our churches for natural disaster response. Even those who are not on the Board’s medical or pension program have been eligible for this assistance. What a gift!

We have had many offers of financial and material help from congregations around the country. We received a $10,000 gift from a church that is so small that it has no website or Facebook page, and its interim GP didn’t even recognize its name. Many churches around the country have sent their gifts directly to the presbytery rather than to PDA, which allows us to make use of those funds in ways we otherwise could not, and with quicker response.

We are beginning to have groups from churches around the country who want to come and do on the ground work and mitigation. Currently, Buckingham and Wintergarden are prepared to host work groups.

We will come out of this devastation, and we will be stronger because of our connections. This coming Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2:30 pm, we are invited to join with Chapel by the Sea at their beach site to pray for healing and discernment as they move forward.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *