Mike Stroud said he can remember how much help his church had gotten from Samaritan’s Purse four years ago, when Hurricane Michael ripped off roofs and flooded houses throughout Gulf County.
So when news of the devastation from Hurricane Ian reached the panhandle, Stroud and his community at First Baptist Church in Wewahitchka knew exactly who to approach about helping with rebuilding and recovery efforts.
“Samaritan’s Purse spent four months here helping us after Hurricane Michael, and we remember how involved they were here,” said Stroud.
Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian humanitarian aid organization that is heavily involved in disaster relief.
Two weeks ago, in the wake of Ian’s Florida impact, six members of the congregation packed up and headed south to meet a team from Samaritan’s Purse in Englewood, Florida.
“We did tarping, tarped roofs,” Stroud said. “We did mud outs, basically taking out anything that would get moldy. We cleaned up debris, bits of metal roofs, things like that.”
“After Michael hit, a lot of people just had these glazed over eyes,” he continued. “These people, they had the same thing. They didn’t know where to go next, what to do next… And so somebody coming in to help them meant a lot to them, just like it meant a lot to us.”
They were one of several local groups who made the trip, including dozens of linemen from Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative, who spent weeks helping to restore power to affected areas.
“Employees from Wewahitchka met employees from Southport along Highway 20 and are now en route to Peace River Electric Cooperative,” wrote GCEC in a Facebook post the day after Ian’s landfall. “Prayers for safe travels for these guys as they drive through the night on their way to assist in the power restoration effort.”
The Gulf County Sheriff’s Office, the cities of Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach and the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners have launched a fundraiser for Samaritan’s Purse, earmarking the funds raised to go straight towards Hurricane Ian recovery efforts.
Stroud said the church plans to send additional crews of volunteers down to help with recovery efforts in the coming weeks.
“We’ve got 12 to 15 members who are eager to get down there and help, so we’ll head that way in a few weeks,” he said. “That gives us time to coordinate everything and figure out what services are most needed.