submitted by PJ May
Last month my husband Rusty and I spent 3 ½ days in Panama City working with Kim Hopkins of Lutheran Disaster Response and working on a project connected with ongoing recovery efforts in Panama City. Hurricane Michael – a Category 5 hurricane – made landfall just southeast of Panama City in October of 2018 and wiped out Tyndall Airforce Base and areas of Mexico Beach and Panama City. Making our way from Tallahassee along the coastal route that took us through these areas, one could still see lots of blue tarps on roofs, many abandoned buildings, wide areas of open space where there once were buildings, some buildings where renovation work was being done, and acres and acres of broken trees.
Arriving in Panama City we were welcomed by Kim at Messiah Lutheran Church where we were going to be staying. The church has turned 2 rooms into bunk rooms for volunteers. We stayed in the larger room – which was quite comfortable! Across the hall is the church kitchen which is available to volunteers for storing food and making meals. Just down the hall are bathrooms with shower facilities – also very nice. For larger groups there is a separate shower/restroom trailer that can be setup for use. Staying in the church cost us each just $10/night which makes it affordable for almost anyone and was convenient to the grocery stores and restaurants.
Kim had arranged for us to put up insulation in the roof of a 900 sq. foot home and then install ceiling tiles. She had ordered everything to be ready for us to pick up at the Home Depot and has several trailers and storerooms with all the necessary tools. We worked well together and problem solved along the way. Neither Rusty or I had done anything like this before but felt confident as Kim worked along side of us. The scope of work was challenging and ambitious and while we didn’t quite get all the ceiling tiles in, we felt our time and efforts were productive and we know the couple living in the home were grateful to finally have a ceiling back in at least half of the house and insulation throughout.
Prior to going out to Panama City I applied for a Thrivent Action Team grant of $250 that I used to purchase supplies for the new bunk rooms – mattress covers, pillows, sheets, blankets, and 2 small dressers and some toolbelts, goggles, and gloves for volunteers. When we returned home, both Rusty and I designated Thrivent Choice dollars to Messiah Lutheran Church and asked that the funds be used to purchase other items that Kim may need for future volunteer work groups and projects.
I’m sharing our experience because I’m hoping other retired individuals or couples, church groups and conferences will be inspired to contact Kim Hopkins and plan to make a trip out to Panama City to help. Kim said “I have enough work for people for the next 2 years”. Kim is great to work with and will design a project geared specifically for the age, skill level, and number of volunteers. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org call 340-643-7516.