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image Pastor Ernest R. Howell leads singers from Grace and Truth Fellowship International in a rousing chorus.

The association holds a community sing the last Monday of each month at different churches on a rotating basis.

By PENNY FLETCHER

RUSKIN — Officials of the South Hillsborough Ministerial Association want to help their northern neighbors who took the brunt from Hurricane Sandy but they want to be sure they don’t duplicate efforts.

So instead of trying to aid them directly, they decided to donate to Franklin Graham’s effort, Samaritan Purse.

“We’ve worked with them before,” said the ministerial association President, Rev. Don Tanner of Ruskin’s Maranatha Church of God. “The Graham organizations are very well organized and accountable.”

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, world-renown preacher and advisor to many U.S. presidents, heads up Samaritan’s Purse International Relief, a mega-assistance and development organization that has helped out in many natural disasters, often reportedly before governmental agencies arrive.

Currently it is on the ground giving aid in several areas of New Jersey and New York hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy Oct. 29.

The SHMA pastors decided to raise funds in the best way they know how: through their monthly joint “Sing.”

The association consists of an ecumenical group of houses of worship existing in the area of south Hillsborough County between Big Bend Road and the Manatee County Line.

“Our motto is unity with diversity,” said the Rev. Ernest R. Howell, pastor of Grace and Truth Fellowship International. Grace and Truth is the church that built andmaintains the SHMA website at www.shmasouthshores.org/ministries.html.

“We decided to do this at the Pastor’s Council in early November,” Howell continued.

If all the houses of worship in the organization participate, there are 11, Tanner said.

“It is reported that Sandy rivaled the amount of damage of Hurricane Katrina,” Tanner  continued. “We felt we had to do something to offer our aid.”

The association holds a community sing the last Monday of each month at different churches on a rotating basis. In order to start gathering enough funds to make a good contribution, all member pastors have been asked to take a donation at their church prior to the next sing, Nov. 26, as well as the collection that will be taken at the event.

The sings make a joyful noise, using all types of music from contemporary bands and guitars to traditional hymns, said the Rev. Howard Roshaven, pastor of Tree of Life Christian Fellowship in Wimauma and secretary/treasurer of SHMA.

Anyone can participate, whether or not they belong to a local church.

The last time the association took a collection for Samaritan’s Purse was when the 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit China and killed more than 88,000 people in May 2008.

The sing being held for this relief effort will be hosted by Friends and Family Assembly Church in Wimauma, said its pastor, Rev. Donnie Newberry. But it will be held at the Maranatha Church of God, 55 Sixth Ave. S.E., Ruskin, Monday, Nov. 26 at 6:30 p.m. because of that church’s larger size and easy-to-find location.

For more information about SHMA visit www.shmasouthshores.org/index.html.

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