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Interfaith hires executive director to lead disaster Nashville response

BY STEVE GUST | NASHVILLE, TN | June 15, 1998

NASHVILLE, TN (June 15, 1998) -- A organization of faith-based organizations expects to work for months to

help residents recover from tornadoes, which took only minutes to damage

2,800 homes in east Nashville April 16.

"We want to be the safety net under the safety net," said Lanny Lawler. He

is the chairman of the recently-formed Nashville Interfaith Disaster

Response organization, consisting of more than a dozen religious

denominations in the Nashville area.

"We're in the long term permanent recovery phase, which includes agency

coordination and getting people to apply for assistance," said Lawler,

Lawler, the pastor of Nashville's Eastwood Christian Church.

IDR inlcudes members of the: Southern Baptist Convention, Mennonite

Disaster Services, Tennessee Convention of the United Methodist Church,

Christian Reformed Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,

Christian Church "Disciples of Christ," Salvation Army, United Church of

Christ, Middle Tennessee Presbyterian Church of the United States,

Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Roman Catholic Diocese of

Nashville, Seventh Day Adventists and the Jewish Federation.

The task of rebuilding homes and people's lives is becoming so challenging,

that a salaried executive director has been hired. The Rev. Carolyn Tyler,

a United Methodist minister, will begin work after July 4. According to

emergency management officials, more than 5,000 people in the Nashville

area have applied for federal grants or loans as a result of the disaster.

"One of the biggest problems is making sure people know about the various

agencies (that can help)," Tyler said. "Money from the IDR is for families

and residences, not businesses. We want to fill the gap for those people

who fall in the cracks who either don't have enough insurance or have no

insurance at all."

This is the fifth time Tyler has served as a director for a recovery

effort. She has also headed up recovery efforts in Arkansas and Kentucky.

"I imagine I'll be out in the field with my cell phone helping people," she

said.

The Rev. Ann Soderquist, a Presbyterian minister and member of IDR, has

seen some of the shell-shocked in Nashville.

"When you look at your roof and see trees and rain come through it, it can

have a profound affect on people," Soderquist said. She explained that she

found Nashville "unprepared" in many ways for the storm, which knocked out

power to 75,000 people.

"The immediate response was incredible," she said. Since then Soderquist

has noticed confusion with the public over "who does what."

Many are still having trouble dealing with the twisters. "There needs to be

counseling for many children now who remain afraid of storms," Lawler said.

One person benefiting from the IDR was Fred Gay, a retired 86-year-old widower.

The storm damaged his fence and destroyed trees in his yard. For days he

was sawing the trees and then dragging parts to the street for disposal. It

was a daunting task for the elderly man.

The IDR heard of his predicament and dispatched a United Methodist Church

youth group. The teens, from Alabama, traveled to Nashville to help.

"They were the cleanest and nicest bunch of kids you'd ever want to see,"

Gay said. They helped him moved a large stump and overall provided some

companionship for Gay, who admits it gets "lonesome" sometimes with the

death of his wife five years ago.

This was Gay's second experience in a Nashville tornado. He remembers

another tornado, which set down 65 years ago in 1933. "That one was

probably worst than this one," he said, although his house wasn't damaged

then. "My wife and I went to see some of the damage at night and we

couldn't even find some of the streets - they were destroyed."

Gay is one of many success stories the IDR hopes to log upcoming months.

"We want to continue our canvassing efforts and help as many people as we

can," Soderquist said.

The government has also responded. In mid-June, the Federal Emergency

ManagementAgency reported more than $20 million in federal and state aid

since President Clinton issued a disaster declaration for the spring storms.

Posted June 15, 1998


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