Story contributed by broadcast journalism student Madison Scarpino
NewsWatch reporter Madison Scarpino spoke with local Oxford churches and businesses in their efforts to help with the devastation of Hurricane Michael.
In the wake of Hurricane Michael’s direct hit on the Florida Panhandle, local Oxford churches and businesses are looking for ways to help victims of the storm.
Members of First Baptist Oxford are ready to help their Florida neighbors rebuild, but Pastor Don Gann says it’s still too soon.
“The need for untrained volunteers, like what we would be bringing for the most part, hasn’t opened up yet,” he said. “The need is so great for trained volunteers that have specific skills.”
Gann said conditions in the affected areas are still challenging.
“There’s no support for those volunteers right now,” he said. “There’s no restrooms and there’s no power in a lot of those places.”
Gann said the last thing they want to do is be a drain on resources.
“The food is going to the victims right now,” he said. “We don’t want to bring in a whole bunch of volunteers who will eat that food that’s really going to the victims.”
Oxford businessman Cliff Sink owns Discount Building Materials. He recently came back from a trip to Port Saint Joe where his company donated approximately $10,000 in materials. Sink and his family have vacationed in the Panhandle for nearly 15 years, and he was in shock over the devastation he witnessed.
“It was just destroyed,” Sink said. “One of the little town’s main streets—like on the Square—the fronts and sides of the buildings were laying in the street. Those houses are just destroyed. You’re going to have to go in there and completely gut them.”
Sink is currently waiting to hear back from people in the disaster areas to see if they need more materials to be donated.
Until it’s time for untrained volunteers to step in, Gann said he encourages his members to donate necessities to the storm victims.
“The needs for basic items like water, baby diapers and common things are already being met,” Gann said. “We’re encouraging people, if they’re going to collect things, to collect building materials like sheetrock, roofing shingles, things like that.”