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Sullivan greets pastors, volunteers; rainfall fails to dampen spirits

MILTON, Fla. (BP)–Braving gray skies, thunderclouds and driving rain, Florida Baptist Convention Executive-Director/Treasurer John Sullivan visited churches in the Florida Panhandle July 14 assessing damage and thanking pastors and relief workers for their efforts since Hurricane Dennis hit July 10.

In Santa Rosa County at Immanuel Baptist Church in Pace, Sullivan asked the church’s pastor, Kevin Goza, about the condition of the facility and assured him Florida Baptists would continue to pray for the pastor and his congregation.

Goza told Sullivan the church had been more heavily damaged than during Hurricane Ivan, but nonetheless the condition overall in the Panhandle could have been worse.

“Ivan was devastating,” Goza said. “Dennis was hard but it was quick.” Goza and Sullivan were joined by Bobby Musselwhite, director of missions for the Santa Rosa Baptist Association.

At Olive Baptist Church across the bay in Pensacola, Sullivan visited with Pastor Ted Traylor and met with volunteers.

“Thank you for your help — I appreciate your help, my brother,” Sullivan told Tommy Thompson, a “blue hat” (disaster relief leader) from Sarasota.

Leon Hurley, the assistant feeding unit coordinator for the state’s disaster relief operations and also pastor of Loma Vista Baptist Church in Auburndale, said he thought the need for help was winding down and thus was “getting everything buttoned up.”

Traylor later told the Florida Baptist Witness he appreciated the willingness of people to help and was especially thankful the storm did not head in his direction.

“God answered prayer and the storm just kind of dwindled,” he said. “I’m glad to see people go home early.”

Sullivan also made a stop at the disaster relief command center at First Baptist Church in Milton, thanking relief leaders for their extra efforts.

Volunteer cleanup and recovery crews spread across wooded Santa Rosa County were not hampered by the days’ storm, reported Fritz Wilson, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief coordinator.

In a news release, Wilson said the feeding crew staffing the Lake Yale-based kitchen at Olive Baptist moved fast to serve up meals and prepare to return to central Florida where it will wait for the next callout.

“The first day of heavy rain since Dennis passed through,” Wilson said. “[It] did not dampen the spirit of the volunteers. It took thunder and lighting to get most of the cleanup crews to stop working in the Santa Rosa Area.”

Summarizing the day’s events, Wilson said nine cleanup teams completed more than 35 jobs; a George Baptist feeding unit and additional teams continued to partner with the American Red Cross to serve meals; and the Texas Baptist and Salvation Army shower trailers continued to provide hot showers for tired volunteers in Milton.

“We will do it all again tomorrow,” Wilson predicted. “Hopefully without the rain.”

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  • Joni B. Hannigan