WEEK TWO AT FUMCH (Florida United Methodist Children’s Home)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Monday morning after devotion we, along with Mary and Phil, returned to our outdoor chapel project.  At the end of the day last Thursday we had 2 rows of benches installed.  Monday we resumed with the layout of the third row, used the gas powered auger to dig six more holes, stacked cribbing to be used to support the benches while we used the fork lift to lift the benches and place the legs in the holes.   Then we mixed up some concrete and poured it in the holes.  It’s a very tedious work to be sure all the holes are placed in exactly the correct place, left/right, front to back, plum and level all the way across.  It took us a day each to complete each of the remaining rows this week.  Of course, there was also tear down, clean up to do each day since we had to leave everything secure each evening.  For safety and security of the children we secured anything that might could be used as a weapon by an upset, confused resident.  We also had some landscaping to do.  We completed all the benches Wednesday afternoon.

After some final cleanup work we moved to the greenhouse project after lunch Thursday and helped to pull some very heavy gauge wire through some buried conduit for close to 200 feet – a lot of heavy wire.  The wire was tied to a rope that we pulled through the conduit by attaching the rope to the forks of the forklift and then raising the forks as high as they would safely extend.  Then lower the forks back down, tighten up the rope and lift again – many times before finally pulling the wire out of the conduit at the panel beside the greenhouse.

Our outdoor chapel crew then went back to help with the setting of a 30′ concrete light pole for the chapel area.  David, supervisor of the maintenance department, along with several of his employees did most of the tractor and forklift work to get that huge hole dug and the pole set.  We assisted with the concrete and filling of the hole once they had it where they wanted it.  They left the tractor holding the pole in place for the night.  With that our work week was over.

It was another productive and fun week.  Other team members worked on electrical for the greenhouse, painted, pressure washed and several other things but again we don’t have pictures of that since we were not involved.  We are still hoping to gather some of those pictures before the end of the project.

Friday as another day for fun.  Mary and Phil invited us to visit the Circle B Bar Reserve with them.  It’s about 90 miles from the children’s home, in Lakeland, FL, but took about two hours to drive due to really heavy traffic getting through Orlando.  It was worth the time!  Such an amazing place.  Over 1,200 acres of former cattle ranch on the shores of Lake Hancock.  There are several distinct ecosystems that are available for hiking or biking.  We saw way too many alligators to count from very small to VERY large.  The one that decided to cross our trail as we approached, not looking at the trail but at the osprey eating a fish in a tree overhead, was the one that really got our attention.  He was a big guy.  Not the biggest we saw but the larger ones were not nearly as close.  The are many birds to photograph such as osprey, eagles, red shouldered hawks, storks, cranes, woodpeckers, herons and many others.  There are turtles and frogs and snakes (did not see any snakes), beautiful live oaks covered in Spanish moss, wetlands, and plains.  All of this and much more and it is free and open to the public seven days a week.  Amazing place we hope to return to next time we are in the area.  We would spend a week there and not see it all.

We ended the day with a family zoom with Anne’s cousins on the Richardson side.  It was a nice way to end another day and week in Florida.  May God continue to protect you all.  Until next week….

Week One at FUMCH

Saturday, February 19, 2022

We have a team of nine NOMADS working at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home (FUMCH).  We have previously worked with four of the team members but have made three new friends with people we have not worked with on previous projects.  The children’s home provides residential care, emergency shelter, foster care, family counseling and many other services for children and families.  The agency has had some difficult times over the past couple of years as so many other similar facilities have also experienced.  However, they are still working hard for the children in their care and we NOMADS are glad we can help with the maintenance and upkeep of their facilities for the children.

The two of us, along with Mary and Phil, were assigned the task of completing an open air worship area on the campus.  It faces Lake Munroe and is in such a peaceful and beautiful setting.  This first week, we worked on laying out the arrangement of benches and after developing our plan, began, clearing the area, digging holes, mixing cement and setting the benches.  The platform and cross in the pictures were installed prior to our arrival.  We are happy with our progress but still have lots of work to do.  We have worked with Mary and Phil on previous projects and have really enjoyed working with them again.   Since we are working outside and away from the rest of the team we haven’t seen or been able to view their work yet.  Maybe we can gather some photos from them for our next blog.  We do know that there has been painting in some of the cottages, repairs of toilets and appliances, installation of a fence gate and some electrical work done.  It was a good week.

Yesterday we visited Blue Spring State Park to do some hiking and see a few manatees.  Earlier in the week there had been over 200 in the spring but as the week got warmer, the manatees left the spring and we only saw about a dozen on this trip.  We still enjoyed our time at the park.  It’s very pretty and peaceful and it’s always so great to see the beautiful manatees even if the numbers were down from earlier in the week.  We enjoyed the warmer weather just much as the manatees did.

Sabbath Ends

Sunday, February 13, 2022

We spent the first afternoon on Jekyll Island just driving around and getting the lay of the land, finding the campground, and the major attractions such as the historic district, the GA Sea Turtle Center, and some restaurants we had been told to visit.  Jekyll is a rather small barrier island, one of several, just off the coast of Georgia.  Interestingly, it is a Georgia State Park and managed by the Jekyll Island Authority.  The Federal Reserve System was planned on Jekyll Island and Jekyll was also the site of the first transcontinental phone call.  Prior to WWII the island was owned by the Jekyll Island Club and was a resort for the wealthiest of the US families such as the Vanderbilts, J.P. Morgan, Rockefellers, and Pulitzers.  Many of the cottages of those days have been maintained/restored and open for tours.  We enjoyed the many bike/walking trails all around the island which went along the shores, through the huge and many old oak trees full of moss, the salt marshes with many different birds, and to the beaches.  We particularly enjoyed Driftwood Beach on the north end of the island and spent several mornings walking along that beach while the tide was out.  The many twisted, weathered and gnarled trees created a beautiful landscape.  Not your usual beach.  Certainly not the white sugar sand beaches of south Alabama.

We visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center which reminded us of the Raptor Education and Rehabilitation Center in Antigo, WI where we volunteered last summer, just mainly for all the sea turtles although they do rehabilitate some other turtles and tortoises  and occasionally a bird or two. Very interesting place.

Of course, we love to eat and since this was “vacation”, we enjoyed several nice meals, including shrimp and grits from the Wharf, and shepherds pie from Wee Pub Beach Resort along with some really good ice cream and gelato from the local sweet shops.

From Jekyll Island’s beaches you can see the St. Simon’s Island Lighthouse.  Friday was spent exploring St. Simon’s including the light house museum and climbing to the top of the light house.  Great view from the top!  We also spent a little while exploring Fort Frederica National Monument and realized that we need to allow more time for it if we return.

From there we began our drive south to Enterprise stopping overnight in St Augustine at the Cracker Barrel.  Our first CB overnight.  We were very surprised that there were 16 other RV’s in the parking lot when we woke up Saturday morning.  We had a good night’s sleep and a great breakfast before we made the final leg of the trip, arriving at the Florida Children’s Home shortly after lunch.  We would use the CB for overnight stops when in the van again but certainly the parking was really tight for the folks in the class A’s.  When we travel in Fred we will probably continue to use Walmart and rest areas for quick overnight stays.  We are now ready to learn what we will be doing for the children’s home over the next three weeks. Time to get back to work.

Checking in on the Way Back to Work

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

After our three wonderful weeks at ECHO in North Fort Myers working with a super team, we needed to return to Alabama to do some mundane stuff.  On the way north we stopped in Tampa to visit with some friends who were at the RV show there.  We really didn’t see or do much of interest at the show except the people we went to visit.  It was great to see friends from all over the country.

Back in Alabama we had doctor visits, dental visits, court hearings for the aunt’s estates, and Anne worked on many NOMADS Board items.  We also made a trip to South Carolina to spend a few days with Randy and Debra – always a special time.  While there Randy and Max installed a rack on the van that will give us a little more storage and tool carrying possibilities.

We decided that we needed a little down time, so we left Alabama early to stop at Jekyll Island for a few days on the way to Enterprise Florida for our next NOMADS project.  Driving the van, we decided to take the back roads and drove US Hwy 280 from south of Birmingham to Pitts, Georgia – a tiny little Georgia town with a neat Harvest Host site, Oliver Farm Artisan Oils.  The owner was super nice to open his store on Sunday afternoon so we could make some purchases.  They make pecan oil and pecan flour as well as other specialty oils and items which we are looking forward to trying.  Georgia is the number one producer of pecans so there are ample resources for the oil.  They extract the oil and then take the “meat” that is left and make flower from it.  Unfortunately, they did not have any pecan flour in stock so we will have to order some. We have several recipes we are anxious to try.  We will let you know how they turn out.  From Pitts we landed on Jekyll Island, a place many of you have visited but one we always just drove past with the intent of visiting someday.  Today is someday.