Zirlott Road UMC layperson leads storm relief efforts

November 05, 2020
Clayton Schwind’s phone rang as he cut tree limbs and cleared storm debris from his Mon Louis Island yard.

On other end of the line were Hurricane Sally survivors who needed help. Schwind, Zirlott Road UMC’s disaster coordinator, hopped in his car and drove the four miles to the church to meet them.

When he arrived, Schwind chatted and offered relief in the form of flood buckets, tarps, food, and diapers.

A longtime member of Zirlott Road UMC, last year Schwind stepped in to serve as the church’s disaster coordinator. While Hurricane Sally was the first storm to hit the Gulf Coast since he’s served in this role, Schwind is no stranger to disasters, having retired after serving 30 years as an incident commander in charge of resources for the disaster relief team of the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Having Schwind serve in this capacity has been a wonderful help, said Rev. Ben Mayfield, who pastors Zirlott Road UMC in Coden and New Hope UMC in Theodore. Past disasters have taught him that it would be helpful to have a dedicated volunteer in charge of coordinating relief efforts.

Utilizing Schwind’s gifts and graces frees Rev. Mayfield to be able to minister to the emotional and spiritual needs of the community, the pastor said.

“If the pastor is trying to run the disaster response and also trying to be the shepherd to the flock, they will definitely be worn down,” Rev. Mayfield said. “But to have somebody who can be there to help alongside in this is great. It’s a blessing.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, nearly 100 flood buckets and 100 tarps were given to those in the Zirlott Road, Mon Louis Island, and Fowl River Community area. Coordinating these efforts and helping others is an extension of Schwind’s faith and something he can do for others, he said.

“What I do allows Rev. Mayfield to do his job, being with people and counseling them. If you have lay members willing to get out there and do this and help out, it takes a big responsibility off the pastor,” he said. “It wasn’t all on the preacher to get things done. The lay people did their part and everybody worked together to get things done.”