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USA: MCC continues to provide aid to families affected by Hurricane Wilma

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BELLE GLADE, Fla. -- Often overshadowed by the attention given to Hurricane Katrina, the impact of Hurricane Wilma remains serious.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) continues to support families displaced last October by Hurricane Wilma, which devastated trailer parks, disrupted agricultural work and displaced hundreds of people, including many farmworkers, in this area of South Florida.

In December, MCC provided school kits, health kits, bags of groceries, cans of meat and blankets to Glades Covenant Community Church to aid in its outreach to the communities of Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee.

At the church's request, MCC sent additional aid in mid-February, including 600 health kits, 210 school kits, 119 blankets, 80 newborn kits and 40 cartons of canned meat. The morning after the shipment arrived, a group of people gathered to receive items. Half of the food was given out that day, said pastor Kenneth Jackson Jr.

"There were a lot of people really looking for and needing help," Jackson said. "We thank God for your giving."

While Belle Glade is less than an hour's drive from affluent areas of Miami and Palm Beach, poverty runs deep in this area. Many of the migrant farmworker families struggled financially before the storm. "The storm only heightens what's already there," Jackson said.

Many people displaced by the storm are still living in cramped, temporary quarters, often in mobile homes. Those who have moved back into their homes continue to lack basic supplies, Jackson said.

"Everything you shared with us was a blessing to these families," Jackson said.

Hurricane Wilma disrupted agricultural work and disrupted farmworkers' incomes. Then, while the February shipment was en route from Pennsylvania to Florida, a cold snap destroyed winter crops.

"This second shipment was perfect timing because a lot of people are just out of work right now," Jackson said.