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Texas, Iowa and Ohio groups spend holiday helping locals recover from Hurricane Ivan

By By MICHELE GERLACH Publisher
They came from different places and backgrounds, yet they had one thing in common.
They wanted to spend their Christmas vacations helping others.
Three groups, coordinating their efforts through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, have been in Brewton this week helping those still struggling to recover from Hurricane Ivan.
Matt and Cammy Gaston's group came from Flower Mound, Texas, north of Dallas, where he is the pastor of the Methodist Church and she works with students at the University of North Texas.
So of the group busied themselves with debris removal, pulling debris to the right-of-way along the Sowell Road and the railroad tracks, as well as near the Jefferson Davis Community College campus. Others provided skilled labor to help with home repairs.
The group slept on air mattresses and in sleeping bags in the classrooms at First United Methodist Church of East Brewton. First United Methodist Church of Brewton provided supper for the volunteers several nights last week.
Jerry Vermeer brought his family - including his wife, Sharon, and sons Michael, 20, Jeremy, 18, David, 16, and Jordan, 14 – from Maurice, Iowa, to help. Members of the Mission Community Reform Church in Maurice, Iowa, Vermeer said, "We were looking to do something as a church and also as a family."
The family had done mission projects before, and the children were interested in another combination vacation/work project.
The family pulled their camper here and set it up behind the First United Methodist Church in East Brewton. They spent their week plumbing, doing cement work, and with general clean-up.
In addition to this being their Christmas vacation, the Vermeers celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary Wednesday.
Kerry Thrush is the pastor of a brand new Methodist church, The Park, in Maineville, a suburb of Cincinnati, which sent a small group to work here this week.
While some members couldn't be a part of the actual mission, they donated $5,000 for the 10 volunteers who did make the trip, and one member agreed to provide motel rooms for the volunteers, who have been housed at the Days Inn in Evergreen this week.
Mike and Janet Martin of northern Kentucky were among the volunteers.
The Martins are veterans of mission trips, volunteering their time most summers at an orphanage in Haiti. While the conditions are much more serious there than here, the Martins agreed that this trip has been rewarding.
Martin said the volunteers with whom he worked this week had one really rewarding experience. His group was attempting to put a new roof on a house - and struggling. There were two Hispanic men who had just moved into the house across the street who watched them and laughed at their efforts.
The Rev. David Bromstad, pastor of First United Methodist Church of East Brewton, coordinated their efforts.
Bromstad said their is a universal experienceof volunteers in this situation.
The work is being coordinated with the Escambia County's Longterm Recovery Committee through Carolyn White at the Department of Human Resources.