Elmore Association volunteers ‘ready and able to go’ following April 2011 tornadoescomment (0)
July 12, 2012
Three Elmore Baptist Association churches currently serve as headquarters for the association’s disaster relief work.
A fourth church is in the process of forming a unit that will utilize the newest expansion in the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ (SBOM) disaster relief ministry.
The three current churches in the association are First Baptist Church, Tallassee; First Baptist Church, Wetumpka; and Thelma Baptist Church, Wetumpka, said Jim Jackson, Elmore Association’s director of missions.
Although these three churches are headquarters for disaster relief teams, the teams do include volunteers from other churches.
The group at First, Tallassee, has been together since before Hurricane Katrina, said Frank Autery, disaster relief team leader for the church and disaster relief coordinator for Elmore Association. The 46 active members are trained in recovery, chain saw, shower unit, chaplaincy and food service.
“Our church has our own equipment and trailer,” Autery said.
Between April 15 and July in 2011 the group was deployed seven times to assist in areas affected by deadly tornadoes. During that time members served in Eclectic, Alexander City, Moody, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Hueytown, Equality and Rainsville.
In January 2012 it responded to a tornado at Eagle Creek in Tallapoosa County, Autery added.
The group is “ready and able to go whenever called. We’re usually one of the first ones deployed” or placed on standby, he said.
In addition to its commitment to cleanup and recovery, the group at First, Wetumpka, has assumed a role as a Rapid Response Assessment Team (RRAT), said Larry Teel, the church’s unit coordinator and a member of the SBOM’s disaster relief task force.
Within 24 hours of an incident, RRATs go into an area to assess the need for more relief and other services, Teel explained.
The day after the April 27, 2011, tornadoes, part of the team from First, Wetumpka, went to Tuscaloosa, while other members responded to needs in Elmore County.
“I was (in Tuscaloosa) for about a month, in and out, with members of the team,” Teel said.
In March 2012 the team, which has 23 members, volunteered in Jacksons Gap in Tallapoosa County after a tornado struck.
First, Wetumpka, formed its team in 1979 when Hurricane Frederic hit Mobile, Teel said.
“(That same year) our state convention began planning efforts to purchase resources and establish a disaster relief ministry in Alabama,” explained Mel Johnson, state missionary and disaster relief strategist with SBOM.
In 2004 and 2005 alone, the team of First, Wetumpka, responded to 27 incidents.
Teel said the team serves people who need help. But the ultimate goal is to share the love of Jesus Christ with the hurting.
At Thelma Baptist, 48 people serve in disaster relief, said Les Brown, interim coordinator. The members are trained in mud-out, cleanup, chain saw, chaplaincy, food service, administration and child care.
The team is fairly young, having been started in 2010.
“We had been involved in disaster relief kind of ad hoc,” Brown said.
Individuals assisted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but the team really came together as members trained for a possible disaster relief trip to Haiti.
Members of the church had taken missions trips “all over the world,” Brown said, so disaster relief was naturally the next step.
Following the April 2011 tornadoes, the team worked in Elmore County and Tuscaloosa, Brown reported. Then following tornado activity in January 2012, it served in Trussville and Pelham.
Recently the team worked with some from First, Wetumpka, responding after a windstorm left damage in Dadeville.
The members of Thelma Baptist generously aided the work of the team.
“We get a lot of support from the congregation monetarily,” Brown said.
The fourth team in the association is being organized at Santuck Baptist Church, Wetumpka, according to Ted Watts Sr.
Watts believes the team will be ready within the next 60 days. This team will be a “skid steer” group, meaning it will provide and operate heavy equipment that will enhance cleanup efforts.
Johnson said skid steer resources are the newest expansion in the state’s disaster relief ministry.
“These new pieces of equipment will allow the work of our chain saw teams to be many times more efficient and effective,” he said.
“This allows for more homeowners to receive ministry (and) thus more opportunities to share Christ. Once disaster assessment is completed and teams are dispatched to crisis locations, skid steers will be deployed to support the cleanup and recovery crews.
“I am also pleased that these new resources are among the much-needed equipment being added to the fleet as a result of the special disaster relief offering challenge our churches participated in earlier this year,” Johnson continued.
“The generous offering support is yet another way our churches have participated alongside our disaster relief personnel to make a difference.”
For information on the offering, visit www.sbdr.org.