Brethren Disaster Ministries issues update on tornado, flood response

Photo by Tim Burkitt, FEMA.
Scenes of destruction caused by a tornado outbreak in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Children’s Disaster Services has been helping care for affected children and families there.

Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM) has issued a situation report on the severe storms in the South, and an update on its new rebuilding work following last year’s flooding in Tennessee. Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) also is reporting from its work to care for children and families affected by the disasters (see story below).

Tornado response:
“As you can imagine, the BDM and CDS offices in New Windsor (Md.) are inundated with the severe tornado outbreak that roared across the South on April 27,” wrote BDM coordinator Jane Yount in a May 6 memo to district disaster coordinators and volunteers. “This outbreak is being called the worst in four decades. There are more than 200 confirmed deaths in Alabama alone, and the death toll across seven impacted states has climbed to 346 as search and rescue teams comb the impacted areas.”

BDM staff continue to monitor the tornadoes that plowed through Raleigh, N.C., and 18 counties on April 16. On May 6, BDM associate director Zach Wolgemuth attended the North Carolina VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) meeting in Greenville. BDM will stay involved in long-term recovery planning in that state, and at some point will decide on an area in which to set up a rebuilding project.

Brethren volunteers from Virlina and Shenandoah Districts have begun work on minor repairs such as roofing, windows, and siding in response to the Pulaski County, Va., tornadoes that struck on April 8. “As the community establishes a long term recovery group, we may be asked to help with major repairs and rebuilding work,” Yount reported.

Tennessee flooding:
In Tennessee, this is the second May in a row for severe flooding. Today, the Mississippi River flooding crested around Memphis. However, the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project site in Tennessee is in the Nashville area, which is not threatened by the current Mississippi Valley flooding.

“As the floodwater moves downriver, the levees protecting the communities around New Orleans are in danger of being breached. BDM is now in its last few weeks of Katrina recovery work” in the New Orleans area, reported Yount this afternoon. “We’re certainly praying that these communities don’t get inundated again.”

A year ago, three days of heavy rain in May 2010 dropped up to 20 inches of water on Tennessee, causing severe flooding from Nashville to Memphis and completely submerging many homes. A BDM rebuilding project based in Ashland City, northwest of Nashville, was started on January 30. A second project is set to open in just a few weeks, on June 1, in the Brentwood area just south of Nashville.

“Plans are well underway to host volunteer groups by the first full week in June at this new site,” Yount reported. Volunteer groups will be housed at Harvest Fields Baptist Church on Sams Creek Road in the town of Pegram, Tenn. Site leaders for the month of June will be Steve Keim and Ken and LouElla Imhoff.

The long-running Hurricane Katrina rebuilding project in Chalmette, La., will be completed by mid-June. BDM has moved its base from a volunteer house to Camp Hope in the community of Arabi. Plans are for the former volunteer house to be brought back to family living status.

How to help:
“As always, the prayers of the Christian community for the victims and the responders are needed, welcome, and appreciated,” Yount said.

“It is most helpful to make financial contributions that can be used where they are most needed,” she said. She emphasized that donations of clothing or other unrequested material goods are not helpful, and that unaffiliated volunteers are not encouraged in tornado zones due to safety issues.

Donations to the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services can be sent to the Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120 or go to www.brethren.org/bdm/edf.html .

Church World Service (CWS) is appealing for Emergency Clean-Up Buckets to assist both flooded and tornado-stricken homeowners. Instructions are at www.churchworldservice.org/kits_emergency . The buckets are warehoused and distributed by the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.