Despite lower donations, recovery efforts continue in Panama City

Montgomery native updates progress of church rebuild

Part 2: Florida panhandle ready for visitors as Hurricane Michael cleanup continues

PANAMA CITY, FL (WSFA) - Recovery efforts continue four months after Hurricane Michael slammed the gulf coast. Panama City was hit hard including a church led by a former Montgomery pastor.

WSFA 12 News Anchor Sally Pitts spoke with Pastor John Blount to get an update on the progress at St. Andrew United Methodist Church.

St. Andrew United Methodist Church has stood in Panama City for over 60 years, but the last four months have challenged the church like never before.

"We have a really long way to go." Pastor Blount said.

Blount is overseeing the churches recovery following Hurricane Michael. The storm caused significant damage and while progress has been made, the road to recovery is still a long one.

"We've added a new roof, torn things out." Blount said. "I try to remind them (the congregation) how much better today is than yesterday."

It could take up to two years to repair the sanctuary, right now, the congregation is holding services in a tent outside the church.

Blount has been the pastor at the church for just over a year. Before moving to the coast, Blount was an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery for several years.

Blount’s connection to the capital city has played a big role in supporting the church's recovery. That support is what's getting them through one day at a time.

One of their biggest supports is Thomas Gallion, owner of Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar on 30-A. Gallion, who is also from Montgomery, attended high school with Blount.

"He (Gallion) was here immediately after the storm was over, brought a cooking truck and his chef,” Blount said.

Gallion’s restaurant has been providing Sunday lunches and fellowship dinners ever since.

Blount believes the church will eventually be better than it was before.

"Good things will come out of this...moving forward, we have to remain positive." Blount added.

Unfortunately, organizations that help residents in their recovery say donations are down.

The United Way of Northwest Florida says there is a substantial difference in the amount of donations received following the 2017 storms versus last year's disasters.

We are so wonderfully appreciative for what we received; however, the need is still great and it will be great for a long, long time,” Bryan Taylor, President, United Way Northwest Florida said. “The mission of the long-term recovery organizations is to meet the unmet needs of families, looking down the road a year from now, 18 months, two years from now, trying to find the places that still have blue tarps on the roofs, trying to find those places that still have uncleared yards, debris scattered about and providing assistance to those.”

The United Way says one reason donations may be down is donor fatigue following multiple disasters in 2017. They remind donors that 100 percent of what you give goes to support the recovery efforts. To donate to The United Way, click this link.

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