Tornado recovery continues in five districts: Keep work teams and money coming
By Annette Spence
Winter is coming, and the Rev. Stephen Burkhart is feeling desperate. Seven months after parts of Greene County were mutilated by storms, homes still lie in disrepair and the dwindling number of work teams can't keep up with the work load.
He wonders why there are fewer United Methodists among the volunteers who do come. "Sadly, there are weeks that pass where the only Cross and Flame I see is the one on my work van," Burkhart says.
While more help is needed, several Holston congregations and individuals have generously contributed labor and money for storm recovery. In September, five districts received more than $96,000 in grants, made possible by donations from Holston members.
Since April 1, Holston churches gave a total $152,801 for disaster response within the conference, said Anne Travis, director of connectional ministries. Immediately after the storms, the United Methodist Committee of Relief (UMCOR) also gave Holston $20,000 in emergency grants.
Here's where the money went and the current needs in Abingdon, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Johnson City, and Wytheville Districts.
The district received an initial $2,500 UMCOR grant followed by a $25,000 grant from Holston donations. The Rev. Barbara Farmer of Pleasant View United Methodist Church and the Rev. Paul Griffith of Glade Spring Charge are leading disaster response in Washington County, especially the devastated Glade Spring area.
"The Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG) with United Way of Washington/Russell Counties are serving as our fiscal agent," Farmer said. "We have 127 families approved for assistance with a projected cost of $715,000."
About $580,000 has already been raised through the United Way, but volunteer labor and donations of money and supplies are still needed, Farmer said. "We still have roof repairs that need to be done as well as new construction projects underway and pending."
Schedule work teams through the United Way's Sharon Atkins by calling 276-676-2160. The Abingdon District office is accepting financial donations, or you may write a check to your local church with "Holston disaster response, Advance #143" on the memo line.
The district received an initial $2,500 UMCOR grant followed by a $25,000 grant from Holston donations. Trenton, Ga., suffered severe tornado damage, and Trenton UMC has been involved in the response since day one, said the Rev. Reece Fauscett.
"The conference has helped us financially and we are working on grants," he said.
The Dade County relief effort is now housed under an organization called DOAD (Dade Organized Assisting in Disaster), a nonprofit coalition with legal status. "Our United Methodist churches have a large share of the leadership in DOAD's activities," Fauscett said. Wildwood, Whiteside, Morganville, Slygo, Payne's Chapel, New Salem, Rising Fawn, Sand Mountain, and Trenton United Methodist churches are all partners with churches from other denominations.
Trenton UMC houses volunteer groups from across the eastern U.S. on a weekly basis, Fauscett said. Recovery work will continue throughout the winter. Individuals and work teams who want to join the effort should contact Mike King at email@example.com.
Financial donations are also requested. Make checks to "DOAD" and mail to: Trenton UMC, P.O. Box 6, Trenton, GA 30752. You may also write a check to your local church with "Holston disaster response, Advance #143" on the memo line.
The district received an initial $2,500 UMCOR grant followed by a $25,000 grant from Holston donations. Volunteer traffic remains steady, but help is still needed in the Cleveland area, said Connie Wright, District UMVIM coordinator.
"I see areas that still need debris cleared from the fields. There is a man with 40 acres, and nothing has been moved since April," Wright said.
A few weeks ago, Wright encountered a street she had never visited before. "I sat and cried. Driveways, but no house. Stairs to a front porch, but no home. And the one that caught my breath, children's toys still sitting in the yard of a now empty lot."
E-mail Wright or call 423-650-5181 for a work team assignment. "I can find work sites for any size group," she said. "A lady from Kingston came by herself and helped in the Distribution Center. A group of 53 came from Trenton, N.J., and worked for six days on 14 different sites."
In hard-hit Apison, the Rev. Todd Chancey has also been leading a strong recovery effort: "We have some families that have been able to move back into their new homes or rebuilt homes," said the pastor of Apison UMC. "Others are still in stage one, and we are working on many construction sites daily."
Most needed are work teams including contractors, electricians, plumbers, or sheet-rocker workers, Chancey said. Workers are needed for tree, stump, and brush removal and to cut downed trees into firewood.
"We give it away to those in our community who need it for heat," he says. E-mail Chancey or call 423-290-3999 to schedule volunteer work. Send gift cards for Wal-Mart, Bi-Lo, Lowe's, and Home Depot (for helping the homeless and unemployed) to Apison UMC, 4404 Bill Jones Road, Apison, TN 37302.
JOHNSON CITY DISTRICT
The district received an initial $2,500 UMCOR grant followed by a $25,000 grant from Holston donations. The Rev. Stephen Burkhart, pastor of Carter County Parish, is serving as project manager in Greene County. Damage was most severe in the Horse Creek and Camp Creek communities.
"The biggest needs now are money and work teams," he said. "I am in the field 40 to 70 hours per week, profiling and designing repairs, procuring and staging materials, positioning for teams that come in ... Carter County Parish has been outstanding in covering for me in ministry so I can work recovery."
All levels of skill are needed. "If I have skilled workers, I will postition, supply, and turn them loose," Burkhart said. "If they are unskilled, I will train and position them with skilled volunteers ... I will promise not to waste their time, to have supplies ready when they arrive, and to send them home tired and blessed."
Volunteers are needed for any time frame: an evening, a day, a weekend, a week. To schedule, email Burkhart or call 423-895-1296. Donate through AIDNET of Greene County, or write a check to your local church with "Holston disaster response, Advance #143" on the memo line.
The district received an initial $10,000 UMCOR grant followed by a $20,552 grant from Holston donations. Although most of the weather damage in Holston occurred April 27-28, an earlier storm on April 8 was responsible for destruction in Draper and Pulaski.
Repair work in Draper was completed earlier this year. John Toothaker of First Pulaski UMC led most of the work in Pulaski, which was more extensive, according to the Rev. Ty Harrison, district Volunteers in Mission coordinator. "First Pulaski hosted the teams in the church and in their homes and made their kitchen available for meal preparations as well," Harrison said.
Several homes need to be rebuilt or repaired, so work teams are still requested, said the Rev. Hugh Kilgore, pastor at First Pulaski UMC. Email Harrison or call him at 276-728-2434 to schedule teams.
Send donations to the Wytheville District office, or write a check to your local church with "Holston disaster response, Advance #143" on the memo line.
The completion of a new home for a Pulaski family victimized by tornadoes was dedicated Oct. 25. See the related WBDJ-7 story and photos on Facebook.
Two other districts also received grants from donations made by Holston members: Kingsport ($341) and Maryville ($397). Some funds were used to train a Spiritual Care Team organized by Pastoral Counselor Laura Shearer, said Travis. Additional funds will be distributed later based on need.