St. Johns County churches mobilize for relief

By Laura Hampton

A group of 15 to 20 churches in St. Johns County have come together to help the community recover from Hurricane Irma.

On Wednesday, the churches established two project centers – one at the EPIC Theatre in St. Augustine and one at Phantom Fireworks at State Road 210 and Interstate 95.

“Between the two we had more than 200 people show up,” said Billy Almaguer, pastor of Awaken City Church.

The group, which calls themselves “The Collective STA,” was created last year when Hurricane Matthew swept through the region.

Almaguer and Bryan Lamoureux, pastor of Reverb Church, used social media to organize the two churches around projects that needed to be done.

The response was overwhelming.

“We had 400 people show up,” Almaguer said. “People were driving in from all over the state.”

The Collective’s goal is to facilitate a coordinated response to natural disasters and other emergencies, which Almaguer said capitalizes on the strengths of churches.

“It’s something churches do well – finding the needs and finding the people to meet them,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t want to have emergency situations and tragedies, but when they happen we want to have a way to respond that’s as overwhelming as the tragedy itself.”

Since last year, more churches, large and small, have joined The Collective and the community is recovering from yet another hurricane.

To help meet the present needs in St. Johns County, the group has planned two additional project events for Saturday.

Volunteers will be sent out on projects ranging from picking up yard debris to delivering water and meals to those in hard hit areas. All skill levels are welcome and some kid-friendly projects are available.

“Projects are open to anyone,” Almaguer said, “You don’t have to be a church person.”

There is a special need for volunteers who own chainsaws and those with light demolition experience.

“If you own a chainsaw and you are going to operate the chainsaw, we do need some skilled people to help with limb removal and cutting trees up,” Almaguer said.

Also, The Collective wants to know if you or someone you know needs assistance. For information or to request help, contact Billy Almaguer through the organization’s Facebook page, Collective STA.