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A matter of hope in GA

Volunteers are making it work in storm-battered Tate, Ga.

BY DANIEL YEE | TATE, Ga. | November 15, 2002

"We go in after a disaster and help people with physical needs as well as spiritual needs."

—Jim Richardson

Volunteers are making it work in storm-battered Tate, Ga. The community is caught in the "no-man's" land between having significant damage yet not having enough destruction to qualify for federal assistance.

That's why help from faith-based groups is so vital, said Jim Richardson, director for disaster relief at the Georgia Baptist Convention.

"The volunteers make it work -- they take time off (from their jobs) and give their energies to be trained to respond," Richardson said as he pitched in at a family assistance center at Cool Springs Baptist Church in Tate. "They're the ones that make it go."

Deadly storms and tornadoes that swept through parts of north and central Georgia earlier this week destroyed more than 30 homes and damaged more than 200. One category F-2 tornado cut a 13-mile path through the state, according to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA).

Cleanup continued today in the five northern Georgia counties that sustained the most damage from the storms. Gov. Roy Barnes declared a state of emergency for that area Tuesday and more than 100 families in those counties have applied for emergency state assistance, said GEMA spokesperson Lisa Ray.

The storm damage was not severe enough to qualify for federal emergency status, she added.

And that could mean even more unmet needs for volunteers to handle. Already, local churches and faith-based response groups are providing food, cleanup assistance -- and hope, said Richardson.

Richardson and his specially trained teams have been preparing food for displaced residents.

Volunteers also used chainsaws to clear trees and other debris that still cluttered people's yards.

And that, in turn, can brighten a dark emotional outlook.

"We go in after a disaster and help people with physical needs as well as spiritual needs," he said. "After a disaster what you find out is that a lot of people have all the things that they trusted suddenly destroyed or damaged -- they find they not only have a physical crisis but a spiritual crisis as well."

And, through providing a simple meal or by clearing large tree limbs, volunteers help restore their confidence in the physical world -- which also gives them a boost in the spiritual world.

"What they are looking for is hope," Richardson added. "We try to provide hope and encouragement to help them know that God loves them and he's going to see them through."

Already some Georgia residents are looking on the bright side: despite the destruction, only 10 people suffered minor injuries.

"Georgia was very fortunate; we didn't have any deaths," said Ray. "A lot of people in Georgia lost homes or had severe damage. We feel very grateful no lives were lost."

In Tate, which suffered the brunt of the tornado's wrath, the community has gathered together to overcome their predicament.

"I think this community really likes to take care of each other," Ray said.

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