To become a member of an Early Reponse Team, persons must be trained and certified to respond almost immediately when disaster strikes. Last summer, several Holston members participated in two training opportunities that prepared them for disaster response within the conference or Southeastern jurisdiction.
This month, the training paid off.
A rare midwinter storm spawned tornadoes that struck the U.S. South on Feb. 5, flattening homes and businesses and killing 59. Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Kentucky all experienced fatalities.
On Feb. 11, Holston Conference dispatched five members of an Early Response Team to Sylvania, Ala., where they will "mainly clean up debris," according to disaster response leader Paul Hite. The team met at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville , Tenn., to complete paperwork, pick up tools, and prepare the conference's disaster-response trailer. Two more members departed Holston on Feb. 12, joining the team in Alabama.
The team was expected to be housed and fed by the Upper Sand Mountain Parish, returning to Holston Conference by Saturday, Feb. 16.
Holston leaders are working with officials to learn when an additional Early Response Team may assist tornado victims in middle or west Tennessee. "Areas in the Tennessee and Memphis [Conferences] are still in the research and recovery mode," the Rev. Hite said on Feb. 9. "There are still 235 people missing in Macon County, and they are not allowing any outside people in the area yet."
Watch www.holston.org or future editions of The Call 2 for updates on the Early Response Teams' work, as well as appeals for Volunteers in Mission teams (which may be dispatched later).
To aid the United Methodist Committe on Relief (UMCOR) response to the storms, write a check to your local church and mark '"Project 610, Super Tuesday Tornadoes" on the memo line.
Read the United Methodist News Service report on the denominational response to the Feb. 5 storms.