On Thursday, Orange County opened six storm shelters for people living in vulnerable circumstances. Apopka High School was the only official shelter in the Apopka area, but the capacity was only 306 persons.
The church had not planned to become a storm shelter, according to Ben Bankson, Administrative Pastor for Victory Church.
"During the preparations for Hurricane Matthew we received word that some of the families in our church were seeking extra shelter from the storm. These were families who maybe lived in mobile homes and/or apartment complexes. Many had already worked out plans with other members in the church but some members didn’t yet have a place to go. We decided to open our doors to help provide a little extra safety for those still seeking shelter. We asked that each family bring their own pillows, blankets, food and water so that each family could be prepared.
As the night went on, a couple families from outside the church heard from friends that we had opened. Thankfully we were also able to serve them as well."
"We started off the night with one church family and some friends," said Joe Bankson, Youth Pastor at Victory Church. "Two other families arrived around 10:30 PM from a local trailer park. They tried to find shelter at the high school but found that it was packed. They just happened to find us. Thankfully we were also able to serve them as well."
Victory Church did not start out with the idea of being a storm shelter.
"Due to limited resources and facility space, our original intention was to simply open up a safe place for a few of our church families, which also helped us test our emergency preparedness capabilities," said Ben Bankson. "We’re happy to have been able to serve more people in need."
The experience has Victory Church re-thinking their role during hurricanes and similar events.
"Our desire going forward is to look into developing stronger plans for future hurricanes so we can be better prepared to handle upcoming situations," said Ben Bankson. "After this experience we would certainly like to encourage other churches and organizations who are able and have the resources to also begin coming up with plans for their members, working together as a community to help lighten the load for local public shelters."
This is only one example of how Apopkans stepped-up to serve the needs of others before, during and after Hurricane Matthew. If you know of other stories that need to be told please let us know.
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