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‘Fickle Fay’ displaces blind family

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Florida Baptist disaster relief volunteers assisted a Daytona Beach family Aug. 23 after Tropical Storm Fay dumped rain in the area. Earlier in the week the storm’s unpredictable nature caused one newscaster to refer to it as “Fickle Fay.”

On Saturday, 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 he initially headed out with workers Friday but could not find the home in the driving rain. Volusia County Emergency officials assisted him in locating the home Saturday, he said, by which time he verified the family had fled the home after new holes emerged in the ceiling.

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.

At least three windows were boarded up on the outside but were damaged on the inside. The door was so swollen with water that it could not be shut, so when Belz arrived on the scene, he immediately called the Daytona Police department as a safety precaution.

“It’s really sad to see the way that a lot of our people are living in our own back yard here,” Belz told the Florida Baptist Witness.

The woman living there had told Belz that 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.

According to Belz, although code enforcement officers were scheduled to inspect the house on Monday, the officers on the scene authorized him to go ahead and shore up the property.

“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 Witness Aug. 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.

“I could see why she had to get out of there,” said Belz, who is also concerned about others who might not even realize they are in danger.

Earlier in the week, he said volunteers answered a call to assist an 86-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 correspondent for the Florida Baptist Witness (www.floridabaptistwitness.com), newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.

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  • Jessica Tuggle