Of the thousands of institutions helped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency following September’s Category 4 Hurricane Irma, houses of worship are not included.
Two synagogues, including one in Key West, are suing FEMA for being denied disaster-relief grants because they are houses of worship. Others are receiving financial aid from a different source: The Knights of Columbus.
Of the $3.8 million raised by the national organization since September for disaster relief in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, $540,000 is going to two churches and a food pantry in the Florida Keys.
“Often there’s not as much attention on churches, but our parishes are centers for the communities and the opportunity to participate in the rebuilding of those is a great calling. That’s what the Knights do,” said Kevin Shinkle, Knights of Columbus senior vice president and communications officer.
At St. Peter Catholic Church on Big Pine Key, which was destroyed in the storm, $360,000 from the Knights will go toward rebuilding.
“We lost the church and the rectory and both of them are condemned because of the storm surge,” said Father Jets Medina. “It’s going to be a long time before we’re back to normal, but we’re very grateful.”
He said mass is being held in an open-air pavilion on the church property.
Although it’s not a house of worship, the Star of the Sea Foundation on Stock Island is getting $120,000 from the national Knights of Columbus.
SOS distributes more than 1 million pounds of food annually to clients in need throughout Monroe County and the food pantry was “devastated in the storm,” according to Executive Director Tom Callahan.
“We lost our roof and everything inside including the refrigeration equipment,” he said, adding slowly but surely, the pantry is being rebuilt.
San Pablo Catholic Church in Marathon is getting $60,000. A representative for the church could not be reached by press time.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219