8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
175 Years
About Us

RESTORE Food Pantry is open from 10 AM until Noon every Tuesday and Thursday.  Do not come onto the property before 10:00 AM.  The RESTORE Food Pantry is an Equal Opportunity provider for all eligible recipients regardless of race, age, or gender.

On Tuesdays, recipients can also enjoy hot meals in our Fellowship Hall--courtesy of Metropolitan Ministries.

The Challenges of Hurricane Idalia
As The Florida Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, Trish Warren is familiar with the challenges that hurricane season brings to the state. But even by those standards, the damage wrought by Hurricane Idalia on August 30th presented unusual hurdles to getting people the help they needed in the storm’s aftermath. “The challenge with this recovery is that it’s so spread out,” she said.

While the Big Bend area of northern Florida took a direct hit from the storm that reached Category 4 status, areas up and down the west coast of the state had serious impacts. There was flooding as far south as Fort Myers as Idalia snaked up the coast, ravaging beaches and bringing storm surges fueled by winds that surpassed 130 miles per hour in some places.

This came just 11 months after Category 4 Ian blasted parts of Southwest Florida. 
“There’s a lot of additional trauma to the Ian survivors with this hurricane,” Warren said. “And another issue we’re having in the North West District is finding housing for all the volunteers because of the disaffiliations in that area. Normally, they could just stay at a church while they work.

“I feel like we’re always asking for something because there has been such an increase in disasters. But people need to know that we’re just not getting the same level of help that we used to.” In just the last two years, Warren’s team provided assistance at the Surfside condo collapse in South Florida, flooding in Broward County, an EF2 tornado that struck South West Florida, Hurricane Ian, and now Idalia.

But despite the challenges, members of The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church combined with friends and strangers from other denominations to help meet the needs in their communities. 

Bishop Tom Berlin urged that to continue. “We pray for our United Methodist witness as people donate supplies, donate material resources or volunteer time,” he told United Methodist News. “We pray that it might encourage people in this area and be a witness for the love of Christ from our church.”

Warren joined Bishop Berlin, Assistant to the Bishop Alex Shanks, and North West District Superintendent Clarke Campbell-Evans in touring affected areas on the day after the storm. “We are grateful for the response of volunteer teams, and we wanted to show support for them and see the damage first-hand ourselves,” Rev. Shanks said. “For instance, Cedar Key UMC has been through a lot of hurricanes, but this is the first time that their building experienced flooding. We know that there likely will be more hurricanes this season, so our message to the churches is to be prepared. Get your plan ready now.”

Idalia blasted ashore in Taylor County, knocking over trees, power lines, and flooding streets and houses in Perry and other communities. Like many pastors throughout the area, Rev. James Taylor of First Perry UMC has been working almost around the clock to help get his town and congregation back on its feet.

“It’s been busy, but a lot of good things have happened,” he said. “This little town, Perry, we’ve always had a good relationship as far as pastors go. The churches work together really well, but this has been special. It runs across denominations, race, and all that stuff. Pretty much every church is involved in helping the community now. Taylor is one of those counties where people come here with a pioneer spirit. They know how to use a chainsaw and fix things. It’s neighbor helping neighbor. It’s wonderful to see.”

Rev. Taylor’s church had some flooding and roof damage, but power was restored in time for a Holy Communion service just four days after the storm. “Music was just me with a guitar,” he said. “We modified our song list because our bulletins were still wet from the flooding. But it was important just to be able to get together and worship.”

Rev. Taylor is a former chaplain in the U.S. Air Force and has been involved in providing hurricane relief when other storms struck Florida in past years. “For me, this is kind of strange. I’ve always been on the other end giving relief work, but now I’m on the receiving end,” he said. “I want to get out there and help, but I need to make sure things are okay here.”

First Perry UMC became a reception point for donations of supplies from as far away as South Carolina. If no one was at the church to receive the goods, volunteers left them on the front steps. The donations included diapers, tarps, food, and other necessities. “That was such a help because the stores were closed for several days after the storm,” Rev. Taylor said. “So, we left them on the steps where people could just take what they needed. They have been really good about not taking more than they need.”

He was also impressed that Bishop Berlin and his team came to get a first-hand look.
“That meant a lot,” he said. “Having the support of the Conference sends a great message to our members.” Warren added, “He was very calm. He has definitely studied our Conference disaster plan. He was eager to get out to those pastors and let them know we were here for them.”
Meanwhile, the cleanup continues. Warren estimated the recovery could take up to three years. But while that continues, Rev. Taylor has a message. “We’re open for business,” he said. “We’ll keep on ringing the bell and keep on preaching the gospel.”

Joe Henderson, News Content Editor,  FLUMC.Org
Hurricane Idalia Needs
The Florida Conference is working on the disaster response of Hurricane Idalia. The Disaster Response Call Center is open at 855-228-3862. We welcome calls for individual unmet needs, including home cleanout and referrals for other needs. Offers for volunteers and donations can also be made into the call center. Our staff and volunteers are equipped to take your call. If you are interested and able to host volunteers or donated materials, you may also call in at this number.

Current need for materials: Contact the call center to inform us of the number of available supplies and information on where to send donated supplies.

Our early response teams are ready and prepared to deploy to those in need. The Florida Conference stands beside you in this time of need. Please reach out to us if you are in need and join us in continued prayer for those that continue to be impacted by Hurricane Idalia.

We Celebrate 20 Years at Hope for Her
2023 brings a very special time of reflection to everyone associated with Hope for Her. Twenty years ago, God opened the doors for our Director, Cheryl Hickman, to start a nonprofit to help women in need … women just like her. Out of addiction and near homelessness, Cheryl dedicated her life to ensure every woman going through a crisis would have the help and hope they needed to get back on their feet, care for their children and live God’s purpose for their lives. Twenty years later, we are celebrating all the people who have helped to make this a reality.

Hope for Her is a safe place where women experiencing crisis and trauma find the strength, skills and support they need to rebuild their best lives.

As a nonprofit founded by women who’ve endured serious life challenges, we know firsthand that healing happens from within. That’s why we work one-on-one with women to help restore their confidence and self-worth, remove barriers to safety and survival, and rebuild critical life skills to thrive.

Together, we transform overwhelming circumstances into opportunities to ensure every woman can live God’s purpose for her life—today, tomorrow, and always.

Together with our generous partners and supporters, we’re helping women in need find the personalized support necessary to overcome any life challenge and realize God’s plan for their lives.

  • 300 women secured a job through our employment program last year.
  • 1200 women received one-on-one support and counseling last year.
  • We received 3,600 calls last year for help and support.
  • We’ve helped restore hope and stability to 4500 families since we opened our doors 20 years ago.

Hope for Her Florida is located at 140 Yarbrough Road, Brandon, Florida just east of Kingswood Road and just north of Bay Life Church. You can call them at (813)309-3357 for assistance or to volunteer.

A Progress Report from the Quessua Mission
Icel Rodriguez has made multiple trips to Angola in her capacity as the Director of Global Missions for The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. Many Angolans struggle with poverty, food insecurity, substandard living conditions, and—perhaps most of all—the lack of any hope to make it better. After nearly 20 years of seeing the conditions first-hand, Rodriguez became convinced that education was the only way things could improve. But how?

Teachers are in short supply there, aren’t paid well (if at all), and the Angolan government set up a system that primarily benefits only the wealthy and connected. It required government-issued ID cards before a child could enter school, and it cost the equivalent of $60 U.S. That may not sound like much, but it’s not unusual for Angolan families to subsist on about $1 per day. Plus, there are additional costs for nearly everything associated with regular schools—photos, notebooks, pens, paper, and even exams.

That has priced the majority of children and families out of the market. There is a requirement that students wear closed-toe shoes. Many children have only flip-flops. Even the few scholarships Rodriguez has been able to obtain for students come only after exasperating delays.

“The only answer is to provide tutoring away from the regular schools,” she said. Easier said than done, right? Many children in the Angola villages are orphans. Those whose parents are living often have little or no formal education, so they don’t consider it a priority. Instead of spending time in a classroom, mothers want their girls to go to the gardens. The girls are needed for domestic chores like cooking, washing clothes, looking after babies, and carrying water.

“The need for young adults in the mission field is huge,” Icel’s husband, Rev. Armando Rodriguez, said. “When there are missionaries, what we have found is that it gives the people encouragement and hope.”

Over the last few years, the Florida Conference, with support from other partners, has built chapels used as classrooms in most of the villages around the Quéssua mission station. Teenage mentors go to the chapels twice a week to offer literacy classes. It is not enough, though. But after years of frustration at trying to find young adult volunteers who would devote a year to teaching, well, let her say what happened. “God opened the door wide open,” she said.

It came in a most unlikely 
place—the General 
Conference of the Methodist 
Church in Cuba last March 
in Havana. She was talking 
with a Brazilian missionary 
about her frustration to get 
the program going when he 
said he might know some 
people in Brazil who would 
be willing to volunteer. And 
now, after a little 
back-and-forth, five 
Brazilian volunteers 
committed to spend a year 
in Angola to provide free 
education for children from 
grades one through twelve.

They will teach the basics—literacy, reading, writing, math, and science. Rodriguez will travel back to Angola in early 2024 to help two of the volunteers—Danilo and Fernanda Figueira—set up the program, and the other three will soon follow.

They’ll use chapels in various villages as their classrooms, avoiding the need for a government ID. From this seed, Rodriguez hopes more volunteers will raise their hands to be Christ’s messenger in a country of extreme need.

“Education is the only way out of poverty,” she said. “But getting there is very time-consuming and frustrating. That’s why I’m so excited about our partnership with the Brazilian missionaries.” It’s only a start, and many obstacles remain, but it’s also a response to a need God placed on Icel’s heart all those years ago. This might seem like just a mustard seed against the backdrop of all the issues in Angola, but the Bible says that faith, even that tiny, can move mountains.

And Icel has no doubt where this break came from. “It’s God,” she said. “It’s God alone.”

Joe Henderson, News Content Editor, FLUMC.org

Danilo and Fernanda Figueria, Brazilian Missionaries going to Angola to teach.
Medicines to Cuba
Health care in Cuba generally was considered excellent, but that's no longer the case. Basic medications aren’t evenly distributed among the people, which means the island nation’s poorest citizens and children often lack basic antibiotics and prescription medicines. When they can find a doctor for treatment, patients may have to provide their own meds and medical supplies because of shortages. This includes everything needed for surgeries, from gloves, to suture, and anesthesia.

That’s where the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church is trying to help. Icel Rodriguez, the Conference Director of Global Missions, works through Blessings International, Florida Methodist volunteers, and the United Methodist Church in Cuba to obtain, deliver, and distribute the supplies where they are needed most.

It is more than a goodwill service. It is an outreach witness. “In Cuba, the state owns everything except the church,” Icel said. “The church is the hub of the communities. When people come to the church to receive their medicine, they see what is being done, and in many cases, non-believers make the decision to join. It’s God at work.”

The medicines run the gamut from anti-parasites, diabetes treatment, upper respiratory medication, prenatal vitamins, blood pressure, cholesterol, and so on. One stipulation is that patients cannot be charged for the services.

“The unfortunate truth is that they need everything,” volunteer Sam Martinez said.  A shipment in 2021 gives you an idea of the impact. The Conference sent 370 pounds of mostly prescription medications to the Iglesia Metodista En Cuba. Purchased with donations from Florida sister churches, the medicine was distributed to the 17 districts of the United Methodist Church throughout Cuba.

Just getting the supplies to Cuba is a challenge because of the logistics involved. “How are we able to get the medicine down there? Only by the grace of God,” Martinez said. “The United Methodist Church has been very generous.” It starts with the Blessings International partnership to obtain the medicine at a low cost.

Blessings International’s mission is to “heal the hurting, build healthy communities, and transform lives.” In the 2022 fiscal year, Blessings International sent 101 tons of medicine to 92 countries, reaching an estimated 7.46 million people. In the last year, it has had a greater footprint in Europe, directly related to the war in Ukraine.

A licensed doctor with an active medical license in Florida has to request the drugs bound for Cuba. Once that is done, the medicine is sent to a shipping company in Miami and from there to the United Methodist Center in Havana, Cuba. Finally, the goods are taken to the 17 districts by their district superintendents.

Word of the treatments has even extended as far as Cuban hospitals. “They will sometimes refer their patients to go to the church to get their medicine,” Rodriguez said. “And I know that countless numbers of children have been helped.”

The work goes on because the need never ends. Fortunately, neither does the drive to help the people most in need. "In August, we sent more than 2,000 pounds of medicine. We have to help,” Rodriguez said. “The people in Cuba really need us to do that.” It’s love and care in action, and, really now, isn’t that what Jesus commanded us to do?

Joe Henderson, News Content Editor, FLUMC.Org