Calls for help answered in TN

BY GEORGE PIPER | JACKSON, Tenn. | June 28, 1999


JACKSON, Tenn. (June 28, 1999) -- Five months after tornadoes rolled through

western Tennessee in January the calls for assistance are still coming in.

The newly formed Disaster Recovery Services Partnership, a coalition of 16

partners ranging from social services organizations, churches, civic groups

and government agencies, started work in late March and has identified

more than half of the 150 open cases in the area.

Organizing and maintaining this widespread network appears to be a great

help for survivors looking to rebuild their lives. The member partners were

ready to help from the beginning, but lacked the ability to make a

difference individually.

"We're keeping folks who need help in mind," says Hope Cooper,

communications director for the United Way of West Tennessee, the agency

that organized the coalition. "As long as everyone is working together, the

partnership is working very well."

It was Jan. 17 that nature turned deadly and destructive when tornadoes

ripped through Jackson and touched other communities in a nine-county area.

The Sunday night tornadoes killed eight and damaged or destroyed some 1,600

homes.

Unaccustomed to dealing with disaster of this magnitude, the Jackson area

found itself inundated with thousands of dollars for disaster recovery and

no existing infrastructure to handle the process. Through the United Way,

Cooper contacted various organizations that pooled resources to help West

Tennesseeans.

The partnership set up telephone numbers for survivors. A call to its

offices results in a caseworker's visit to find out what the needs are.

Caseworkers meet weekly to insure the needs are met and that services aren't

duplicated. Some of the unmet needs include living expenses for those

temporarily or permanently forced from home or repair costs not covered by

insurance or government disaster programs.

Cooper expects the DRSP, with more than $200,000 available for recovery, to

operate for about two years

One group working with the partnership is the Greater Jackson Ministerial

Association, whose churches collected some $60,000 available for long-term

recovery. Several Jackson area churches have taken families into their care

with needs ranging to yard cleanup to completely rebuilding homes, says the

association's president Randy Carter, describing the incredible outpouring

of help from the faith community.

He praised the work of the Christian World Reformed Relief Committee

(CRWRC), whose disaster response volunteers fanned out through the area and

identified more than 50 cases of need that were forwarded to the

partnership.

Aiding in the long-term recovery has been a good learning experience for the

faith community, Carter said, adding that faith-based and other disaster

assistance and social organizations will be better prepared for the next

emergency.

A mixture of unmet needs still exists in the community, added Carter,

especially in cases where survivors were underinsured or carried no

insurance.

"For most of the community, the crisis is passed. But for those that were

affected, it definitely hasn't passed," he said. "Life has returned somewhat

to normal, but those families are still rebuilding."

Posted June 28, 1999


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