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Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers respond to areas hit by March 18 stormscomment (0)

March 28, 2013

By Gary Hardin

Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers respond to areas hit by March 18 storms

Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from 15 associations revved their chainsaws as a system of tornadoes, storms and straight-line winds toppled trees and power lines across portions of Alabama on March 18. 

Ron Warren, state disaster relief chainsaw coordinator, directed Alabama’s chainsaw response effort. Disaster relief chaplains deployed with all crews.

Jim Weeks of the Etowah Baptist Association team expressed his eagerness to serve: “Disaster relief work is my mission — anywhere, anytime.”

Among the hardest hit areas were Etowah and DeKalb counties. Disaster relief chainsaw teams from Elmore, Etowah, Limestone, Madison and Morgan Baptist associations worked in the Southside area near Gadsden in Etowah County. These teams were housed by White Springs Baptist Church, Rainbow City.

In DeKalb County, teams from Sand Mountain, Tennessee River and DeKalb Baptist associations conducted chainsaw operations in DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne. 

“We cleared fallen trees from roads and cabins in the park,” said David Patty, Sand Mountain director of missions and disaster relief team leader.

As the Marshall Baptist Association disaster relief team cut trees that had fallen on several homes in a neighborhood near Etowah High School in Attalla, disaster relief chaplain Debbie Reese went door-to-door in the neighborhood consoling and praying with affected homeowners. “I love to do this,” Reese said.

In Calhoun and Cleburne counties, disaster relief volunteers were on site almost immediately after the storms. James Coley, Calhoun Baptist Association disaster relief coordinator, guided the work of 12 chainsaw operators who cleared massive trees from houses and driveways in the Oxford area.

He was assisted by seven college students from Birmingham Southern College and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

“These students were on a different mission but called and said they could spare a half day to help us. They cleared brush and hauled tree limbs for us,” Coley said.

Sammy Freeman, team leader for Cleburne Baptist Association, guided the work of a chainsaw team that cut trees in Oxford and Heflin. “We’re just glad to be helping people in need,” he said.


In Jasper, the storm left several of the town’s major roads blocked by fallen trees. The disaster relief chainsaw team from Walker Baptist Association, coordinated by Charles Sanders, cleared the roads quickly only a few hours after the storm. Then during the next several days, the group used their chainsaws to clear trees in two mobile home parks.

“Our team has worked hard but surprisingly we aren’t tired. We’re just a bunch of folks who want to help,” Sanders said.

Renea Carol, staff associate for Friendship Baptist Association, reported that more than a dozen disaster relief volunteers from the association cleared trees and placed tarps on homes in the Highland Lake and Hayden communities in Blount County and along Highway 42.

Mark Craft, Friendship Association’s disaster relief coordinator, noted the blessing that comes through disaster relief ministry. “Just being able to help people is a blessing. Through this ministry we are showing hurting people the love of Jesus.” 

A team of 16 disaster relief volunteers from East Cullman Baptist Association cut up fallen trees in Brushy Pond, Crane Hill and Hanceville. Winfred Hanes, disaster relief team coordinator, reported the group had finished its assignments by March 20.

Glenn Pender, St. Clair Baptist Association disaster relief team coordinator, guided the work of seven chainsaw operators in cutting trees for residents in Ashville, Steele, Moody and Odenville. 

Later in the week, the St. Clair team drove to the Kilpatrick area of DeKalb County to help the Tennessee River and Marshall teams conduct chainsaw operations in a heavily damaged Hispanic mobile home park.

“Folks are glad to see us coming,” Pender said. “It’s just a joy to help people.”

The disaster relief team from Birmingham Baptist Association worked to clear trees from homes and driveways in north Birmingham and Ensley, according to John Hayes, disaster relief coordinator.

As of March 21, additional heavy equipment had been dispatched to damaged areas to assist with debris removal. Two shower units with laundering equipment also were made available.

Mel Johnson, disaster relief strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said the disaster relief effort would extend into the week of March 24. “We continue to discover new pockets of damage,” he said.

Johnson also expressed thanks to Alabama Baptists for their generous giving to the 2012 special disaster relief offering. “The equipment we were able to purchase through this offering has increased our productivity fivefold.”

April 21 has been chosen as the date for the 2013 Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Offering. The suggested church offering goal is $1 per member.

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