Florida Baptist disaster relief volunteers assisted a Daytona Beach family on August 23 after Tropical Storm Fay dumped rain in the area. The volunteers responded to a call for help from a blind woman in Daytona Beach living with her children in a home already in poor condition before the storm.
Dennis Belz, director of missions for the Halifax Baptist Association, said Volusia County Emergency officials assisted him in locating the home. Water had pooled onto the living room floor, Belz said. Brown water stains were visible from nearly every corner of the ceiling. Pink insulation had fallen through the weakest points of the ceiling and was hanging suspended in the air. The waterlogged flooring was already mildewed and molded.
The woman living there had told Belz one of her children also was blind. Thankfully, Belz said, the family had been taken to a hotel by a blind services' organization, but that made it difficult for the team to know how to proceed. Normally, disaster relief workers must have the residents of the house sign a form before proceeding with any kind of potentially hazardous assistance.
Since the residents were not available, Belz said he asked police officers on the scene to let the team members — all from Riverbend Community Church in Ormond Beach — go ahead and cover as much of the roof as they could with the tarps they had. The officers had remained on the scene after allowing Belz access to the property because they told him the neighborhood was a dangerous area and they wanted to ensure the volunteers' safety. "We put a tarp over it in an attempt to prevent any further water from entering the house," Belz said. "At least we know we've done the best we could do."
Belz told the Florida Baptist Witness on August 25 he had made calls to check on the status of the family and to confirm they would have a place to live even if their house was determined to be unsafe.
Earlier in the week, he said volunteers answered a call to assist an eighty-six-year-old veteran living in a mobile home.
"There was a gas leak and the place was being flooded," Belz said. "The man didn't even know it and people were in there smoking. The place could have gone up in flames. We are just doing our best to try and help."
Volunteer Floyd Graham, who has worked in reconstruction and remodeling, said he estimated the cost of repairing the Daytona Beach house to minimum standards at more than $30,000.
For Graham, working on a disaster relief team is more than just a way to stay active — it's a ministry that utilizes his skills.
"I can't stand up and preach in front of a bunch of people. I'd rather be doing this," Graham said. "You really can't out give God."
Jessica Tuggle is a member of Central Baptist Church in Melbourne, Florida, and a correspondent for the Florida Baptist Witness, newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.