Hurricane Irma Response: Helping a Tattered Community in Key West
by Joel King, Regional Disaster Response Coordinator, Presbytery of the South (October 16, 2017)
Slow, but steady, progress continues to be made in the wake of Hurricane Irma in South Florida. The Florida Keys, one of the hardest hit areas, has slowly been returned to a slight sense of normalcy. Just over a month after the storm tore through the area, most residents now have power and water, though internet/cable remains a work-in-progress. Brush, earlier piled up to 10 feet high in some areas at the side of the road, is steadily being picked up. Some clearing of land has been underway, insurance and FEMA inspectors continue to make the rounds and, in many cases, have already provided some assistance.
A Team of 13 Volunteers:
At Keys OPC in Key West, it is also a slow process, but one that has seen some success already. Just over a week ago, two different teams converged on the church to offer assistance. Holy Trinity OPC (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) sent down four men, and Christ Community PCA (Palm Beach, FL) sent down a team of nine men and women. The combined group was focused largely on chainsaw work and clearing debris in the area. With this team of 13, the yard work at Keys OPC was virtually completed. Additionally, they were able to finish with the debris at Pastor Bill Welzien’s house, do work at members Doug and Priscilla Weeks’ house, as well as at the home of a friend of Bill's. This friend, who doesn’t attend Keys OPC, was overwhelmed with the support shown to him and came to church the following Sunday!
Bill reports being impressed with the amount of work that this combined team was able to accomplish in just a few short days. It was truly an encouragement to the local church and to the community!
In the past month since the storm, we have seen the needs change:
- At first, it was water, food, and generators that were of greatest need, alongside any critical repairs (water pipes, electrical lines).
- After a week or so, it began to shift to clearing the overwhelming volume of debris from the area. Trees, fencing, wood/roofing from houses, trash, etc., had overtaken the area and became the focus. Along with the residents, the large volunteer team from Holy Trinity OPC and Christ Community PCA helped the church members turn the corner to the next steps.
- Now, as inspections and support from FEMA and insurance companies start to materialize, the help needed becomes more specialized and focused. Skilled laborers are in scarce supply in the area with so many homes in shambles.
There are numerous projects available for skilled workers:
- Roof repairs or replacements
- Siding replacements
- Railing replacements
- Dry wall replacement
The needs are manifested more each day, and help is both a practical need and an emotional boost to an exhausted community.
Please pray that workers will be available to this area soon, that through this work the Lord will be honored and praised, and that a tattered community will see the One that is the true refuge and strength.
For information on volunteering in Key West, please contact: