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Wave of Baptist volunteers aids 3 hard-hit Ala. towns

HOOVER, Ala. (BP)–Alabama Baptist disaster relief volunteers responded in large numbers to the Nov. 10 tornadoes that devastated parts of Walker, Cullman and Cherokee counties. Teams from numerous Alabama Baptist associations joined a national disaster relief effort after storms ripped through the South and Great Lakes region Nov. 10-11.

Officials say at least 36 people were killed — 12 in Alabama — and hundreds were injured in the storms that spawned more than 70 tornadoes.

Tommy Puckett, director of men’s ministry for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said the worst damage appeared to be in three areas — Carbon Hill, Centre and Bremen.

Carbon Hill resident John Davis, whose newly bought house on First Avenue Southwest, was destroyed, said he “cried like a baby when I saw it, but then I realized, ‘I’m alive, my family’s alive and that’s what matters.'”

In Centre, Puckett said, “[T]hat was a terrible trail of a tornado. You could go up to a higher elevation and see it. The path was about one and a half to two miles long and probably a quarter of a mile wide in some places.”

Mobile kitchens were deployed to Carbon Hill and Centre Nov. 11.

The Tuscaloosa feeding unit headed to Carbon Hill’s First Baptist Church but was rerouted to the town’s Church of God of Prophecy because of electricity failure at First Baptist.

“We’ve not had a dissatisfied customer yet,” joked volunteer cook Charles Burns of Grant’s Creek Baptist Church as he “supervised” the other cooks. “[In these situations] you don’t always have time to talk, so this is one good way we can witness.”

Marshall Baptist Association sent its feeding unit to Pine Grove Baptist Church in Centre, with cleanup crews in the area arriving from Tuskegee Lee, Russell, East Liberty, Randolph and Tallapossa Baptist associations.

Cleanup crews in the Carbon Hill and Saragossa communities in Walker Baptist Association came from Elmore, Pickens, Baldwin and Birmingham associations.

East Cullman, Limestone and Madison associations pulled together for cleanup responsibilities in the West Cullman Association, particularly in Bremen. Members of Ryan’s Creek Baptist Church fed the volunteers.

And with the cleanup crews came chainsaws and the constant rumbling of tree limbs crashing to the ground. Disaster relief team members worked together to cut a path to flattened homes by trimming one branch at a time and dragging the limbs and debris away.

Residents in all areas expressed appreciation to the volunteers.

“It’s a blessing,” Davis said in Carbon Hill, promising, “If any [disaster] happens anywhere that I can drive to, I’m there, I’ll show up with my chainsaw.”

Another resident thanked crew members and said she and her family planned to donate money to the Alabama Baptist disaster relief fund.

Along with personal donations, the State Board of Missions plans to release funds in addition to the disaster relief work, said Rick Lance, the board’s executive director.

“We are preparing for financial assistance to affected areas as needs become obvious,” Lance said. “Associational directors of missions will help analyze need, and then we will respond with the financial resources available to us.

“As always, we depend on the sacrificial giving of Alabama Baptists to help provide funds needed for disaster relief assistance.”

At press time, Puckett said some crews had finished work late on Nov. 13 and 14, but most crews were to finish by Nov. 15.

And while Puckett pulled the teams from the area, the work is far from finished, he said. “Some of these volunteers have been working disasters since [Hurricane] Lilli in Louisiana,” he said, noting that some of the teams had left relief work in southwest Alabama just one day before this latest assignment.

Five associations sent teams to Abbeville for cleanup following the Nov. 5 F-2 tornado that hit the Judson Baptist Association area.

“They need some relief,” Puckett said, noting he planned to request out-of-state disaster relief teams via the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board to finish the work.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PASTOR CALLED TO DISASTER and MAKING A PATH.

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  • Erin Webster