A glimpse of the devastation in Marathon as a result of Hurricane Irma - view more images on the slideshow below.
As the hurricane season draws to an end, for us in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, we can thank God that we avoided major damage from a storm this year. However, we are prayerfully aware of the many people in the country that have suffered enormously. Many parishes have reached out to our brothers and sisters in need. As Christians near Gulf Coast waters, many of us were all too familiar with the struggles of rebuilding after major hurricanes. When the news of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria was learned – there was an amazing outpouring of support from around our diocese.
Our bishop suggested that we direct the majority of our aid to Florida dioceses, specifically to those churches effected by Hurricane Irma in the Diocese of Southeast Florida. Through our contacts with the Episcopal Relief and Development Organization and the Diocese of Southeast Florida, a receiving location for our donations was identified.
St. John’s and Holy Trinity in Pensacola, St. Francis in Gulf Breeze, St. Mary’s in Milton, St. Paul’s in Foley and St. Thomas in Greenville all brought in cleaning supplies, water and care kits for the affected area. A pair of volunteers, John Talbert and Donnie Bobe of St. Paul’s in Foley, drove our donations 820 miles to St. Columba Episcopal Church in Marathon Key.
Over their short trip, they were met by the Rev. Canon Debra Maconaughey, members of the church staff, and a team of hurricane survivors that were now homeless following the storm. The thousands of pounds in goods we collected were contributed to their parish hall, which had been transformed into a makeshift donation center. Every day since the storm passed, dozens of families have found their way to St. Columba where they freely collected anything they needed. In addition to the hundreds of care packages, our team also added 4000 lbs of plywood that could be used for boarding up windows, fixing floors, and patching roofs.
The scene in Marathon is overwhelming. Hurricane Irma’s reach was wide and strong. Most trees are stripped bare of their leaves and many branches. Entire neighborhoods of single story family dwellings lay in piles. There are piles of debris nearly 30 ft tall for miles and miles along US-1. The entire contents of a majority of Marathon resident’s homes was marked for loss and piled in heaps on every street.
Our support was needed and welcomed with love. But there is a long journey ahead for our brothers and sisters in Florida, and they will need our help.
Our bishop and the diocesan coordinator for Disaster Preparedness & Response, the Rev. Deacon Tricia Spencer, remain in communication with the teams on the ground in Southeast Florida. We believe there is more good work for us to do in that area as they continue to rebuild. If you or a group from your church are interested in traveling to Marathon sometime in the next four to six months to assist in the reconstruction, please contact Deacon Tricia Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please keep the community of St. Columba in your prayers and all the people of the Florida Keys still recovering from Hurricane Irma. Thank you for your support in this mission.
View more pictures from Marathon on the slideshow below.