The Eastpoint community located in the Florida panhandle is still recovering from a devastating wildfire in June that burned almost 1000 acres in 24 hours and destroyed over 30 homes.
First Baptist Church of Eastpoint and Florida Baptist Disaster Relief are both helping residents pick up the pieces.
“This fire has affected more than 100 people,” said Eastpoint Pastor Douglas Boucher.
“Most of them [the victims] were oyster men and they lost their livelihoods as well because their boats also burned” he said.
The fire, which originally began as a prescribed burn conducted by a Tallahassee based company, turned houses, mobile homes, RV trailers and everything inside them to ash leaving residents with little to nothing. Many of the victims were not insured, reported the Tallahassee Democrat.
Five members of First Baptist Church of Eastpoint lost everything in the disaster.
Florida Baptist Disaster Relief sent in a team to assess how best to help the Eastpoint community.
“We came in and made contact with FBC Eastpoint,” said Delton Beall, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief state director, “and we determined that the best assistance was to come alongside the church as they responded to the needs in the community.”
The church has become the main place to get non-perishable food, water and even clothes. It has also opened its doors for the displaced to take hot showers and is also providing the toiletries for them to do so.
Pastor Boucher noted the church has received approximately six thousand dollars in relief aid and most has come from Florida Baptists.
“The response has been great, we’ve never seen outpouring like this,” he added.
Currently, the major need is to provide a place to stay for those that have lost their homes. This is made more difficult, says Boucher, because the area does not have many hotels and the church does not have space to house many people.
Boucher said, “Most [victims] are staying with friends and family but that’s not a permanent solution.”
The Sportsman’s Lodge, he added, has taken some people in but they too lack the space to house all affected.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Franklin County Sheriff, A.J. “Tony” Smith, is working to procure travel trailers from Homestead which were left over from relief assistance for the people who were displaced by Hurricane Irma.
While this has been a terrible disaster for the Eastpoint community, Boucher said that God has turned it into an opportunity to minister to the people of Eastpoint and build deeper relationships with them.
First Baptist Church of Eastpoint is located at 447 Avenue A Eastpoint, Florida. Their phone number is (850) 670-8468.
By Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention, July 10, 2018