By LEAH STRATMANN
When the Rural Relief Fund was established earlier in the year, the initial plans were modest—feeding those in need. As the months have passed and the community has become more aware of the rural poor, more and more folks are pitching in to expand services beyond the fundamental element of food.
On Oct. 30 there was a community workday at the Muscogee Nation of Florida in Bruce. A few months ago another trailer was donated to Rural Relief and more than 50 people from Village Baptist Church in Destin, including former Florida Congressman Charlie Clary, came to finish the handicapped access ramp on the pantry and build the deck on the second trailer, which will ultimately become a clothes closet for those in need.
According to pantry manager Chuck Tucker, “They painted the deck, built and hung shelves for clothes and did the preparation work for the clothes closet. The ceiling of the trailer needs to be repaired, as do some of the floors and walls. In addition, the winter garden was tilled and planted with collards and mustard greens and other leafy winter vegetables. About 350 plants were put in and the first harvest should be around the first of December,” he said.
In mid-October the first truck load of food from USDA delivered canned fruit, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, canned beef and salmon along with juice, powdered milk, boxes of fresh tomatoes, cheese in blocks and shredded form, frozen blueberries, and frozen meats. “All together, the brought about 1, 500 pounds of food and they will be coming again on Nov. 18,” Tucker said.
The influx of food was needed Tucker said. “We had a huge turnout of folks on Oct. 23 with 72 families requesting food, equating to 240 people we fed. In the last two openings of the pantry, we picked up 28 new families. This is to be expected because near the end of the month they run out of food stamps and there is a greater need for food.”
The pantry will be open again on Nov. 6 and Nov. 20 with new hours from 9 a.m. until noon.
“On Nov. 20 we will be picking up 185 10-pound bags of food from two churches. The bags will consist of fresh produce not picked up by major distributors and instead donated to local churches, who are in turn donating it to the pantry. We will be taking the produce to families the day after pickup,” Tucker said.
Another change happened on the tribal land will be the erection of a Fuller House, an offshoot of the Millard and Linda Fuller Foundation. The Fullers created the Habitat for Humanity model.
“The Fuller Center for Housing now develops several types of homes for individuals using green technology and eco-friendly building supplies,” Ann Tucker said. “The house to be here is one of the easiest to construct using volunteer unskilled labor. Chuck has already received training on how to construct the house and he noted high school and college students build many of these types of homes. “The building materials look like giant Legos,” he said.
Chuck built a house as part of his training of the very same type that will be placed on the tribal property. “To explain how simple it was, they had poured a rebar reinforced foundation and we put in the first set of blocks, then added more rebar to ceiling level. In two and a half hours with two people, we had the first four feet of wall for a 12-foot by 24-foot one bedroom house with absolutely no wasted space. The house to be built on tribal land will be twice as big,” he noted.
“Because of the foam construction it makes the homes water resistant, flame retardant and it is eight inches thick, making heating and air conditioning of little cost. They estimate a pot-bellied stove in a two-bedroom house would heat the entire space. The house withstands winds of 140 miles per hour,” Ann said.
The house is being built for use as an emergency shelter and for visitors to the tribal community. “If no one is living in it, it will be used as a learning center teaching adult literacy,” Ann said.
Construction is set to begin in the next couple of weeks and be complete in about two weeks.
The house will cost about $100 a month for utilities, insurance, and the house payment. “I think it is important we learn how to build houses like this and learn to live off the land,” Ann said. “When I was a kid we ate every part of what we killed, we recycled clothing throughout several families, and we grew our own food and provided extra food to neighbors. We need to get back to basics if we are going to help each other through the lean times,” she said.
Donations of all types are appreciated, but cash donations can be used in a variety of ways.
Checks should be sent to Rural Relief Fund, 278 Church Road, Bruce, FL 32455.
Leah Stratmann may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org