Churches gear up to help tornado victims
Tornadoes, severe storms and flash flooding tore through Virginia on Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, causing loss of life and property. Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared a state of emergency. Particularly hard hit was Gloucester County in the Rappahannock District.
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Asbury United Methodist Church in Foxwells near Windmill Point suffered damage to its sanctuary which has been declared unsafe by a county building inspector. Church trustees are contacting structural engineers to assess damage and possible repairs. Church members hope the newer social hall will be declared safe so they may worship in it.
Kim Sjostrom and Lisa Forrest sort clothes for tornado victims at Bellamy UMC. (Photo courtesy of Norfolk News Daily Press.)
Bellamy United Methodist Church in Gloucester is serving as a command post for the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Gloucester Community Emergency Response Team. “We opened up the church at 7:30 Saturday night even before the storms had left the area,” said the Rev. Ken Waclo, the church’s pastor. “Right now, we’re doing the initial impact work of helping families find their bearings, get them food, get them clothing and get them supplies. If they’ve lost their homes, we’re helping them find places to stay.”
Rappahannock District Superintendent Joe Carson is in contact with emergency responders.
“I have been in contact with Conference Disaster Response leader, Bob Pihlcrantz,” Carson said. “I am certain that we will need to call in conference resources and volunteer teams eventually and perhaps UMCOR when the need is clearly identified. However, until local responding agencies establish central coordinating operations centers and make assessments, there is no way to direct UMVIM teams. We do not need volunteers right now. As is usual in these events, deployment of such teams will take a while to organize. I am working with our District Disaster Response Team Leaders to get in the local information loops and anticipate hosting teams when the time comes.”
Storms destroyed the back half of Page Middle School, Gloucester. (Photo by Randy Greenwell, Virginian-Pilot)
Carson said the best thing churches can do right now is pray, begin organizing volunteer teams for later work trips, and donate money. “We do not need donated food or clothing,” Carson said. “As is most often the case in disaster response, money is the most flexible, helpful, and easily managed gift anyone can give.”
Donations should be sent to the Virginia Conference, P.O. Box 5605, Glen Allen, VA 23058. Checks should be made payable to “Virginia Annual Conference” with “Virginia Tornado/Storm Damage” indicated on the memo line.
256,000 Stop Hunger Now meals spared when tornado hit warehouse in North Carolina
Stop Hunger Now’s warehouse facility in Snow Hill, N.C., located between Wilson and Greenville in the eastern part of the state, sustained major damage during Saturday’s round of tornados. But a shipment of the hunger relief agency’s packaged meals bound for Haiti was miraculously undamaged.
When the line of storms and tornadoes tore across North Carolina and Virginia, it tore off about a third of the roof, caused structural damage to walls and blew out a bay door.
Damage at the Stop Hunger Now warehouse.
"The building is a total loss,” said Stop Hunger Now’s Meal Distribution Coordinator Rick Kearney. “About 20 bags of rice and soy are lost, many bins and containers broken. But it appears all meals are okay."
About 256,392 meals, put together and funded by volunteers, were in the facility, according to Chessney Barrick, Communications director of Stop Hunger Now. As a reference, that amount is just shy of completely filling a 40-foot shipping container.
Stop Hunger Now’s food packets combine rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, flavoring mix and vitamins into a power that can be made into a stew by adding water.
“Considering the building damage, it is a miracle that we did not lose more ingredients and meals. All were stored at the rear of the building, and the roof in the front was what was damaged,” added Kearney.
“Meals will need to be re-boxed, but they will be shipped to Haiti in the next few weeks,” said Barrick.