By LEAH STRATMANN
A little over a year and a half ago, Muscogee Nation of Florida tribal leader Ann Tucker and her husband Chuck saw a real need in the rural environs of Bruce and formed the Rural Relief Fund with an eye toward feeding the hungry. Meetings with community organizations as well as donations from citizens has resulted in a fast growing community outreach center that boasts the food pantry, GED classes, a clothes closet and plans for a medical facility on the tribe’s small compound in Bruce.
Three months ago, the effort is the beneficiary of another big push initiated by Virgil Smith of the Village Baptist Church in Destin. Smith first enlisted the aid of his church to adopt the Rural Relief Fund as a local mission.
“I have taken Christianity to some of the ends of the earth and someone made me aware of the dire needs in Bruce and I approached our church about taking it on as a mission project. In our first workshop we had only four churches represented and we went through and identified major needs and prioritized them. The one that came up time and time again was food.
“As we do our workdays and get our folks involved from the church and focus on the compound to get it operable we can expand. We have started going out and helping out with exposed well pumps that have no protection against freezing,” Smith said.
Smith saw a need to provide coordination between the churches and the other organizations lining up to help and suggested a coalition. “Each time we meet the number of faith based organizations have increased,” he said. “The Lord has done a really, really good thing. When the word gets out about the need and people’s hearts get pricked, good things happen. One of the things to think about now is how to teach them to fish. A number of folks have suggested small businesses to help them get established because they have to stand on their own. One of the measures of the maturity of a Christian is how involved they are in service to others,” Smith concluded.
While most of those taking an active role are representatives of churches, University of West Florida grad student Veronica Gamboa is helping with the coalition as part of her class work.
“This assignment was given to my class: to research a community and complete an assessment based on factual information on such areas as location, population, income, housing, history, education, religion, government, political factors, and social and health systems. Frank Sansone, a professor for the University of West Florida suggested the Muscogee Creek Nation tribe for my group to do our research with. Once we found out how involved the tribe and the Bruce Methodist Church were in the Rural Relief Fund, it became a personal interest,” Gamboa said….
Read the full story in the April 21, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.