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TN churches drive relief

In the parking lot outside the Jackson Police Department, a police cruiser lies crushed underneath a radio tower.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | JACKSON, Tenn. | May 10, 2003

"It becomes a community effort."

—Shelly Baker

In the parking lot outside the Jackson Police Department, a police cruiser lies crushed underneath a radio tower.

The police station itself also incurred some minor damage in Monday morning's tornado, but not enough to close the place down.

On the contrary, the police station is doing double duty not only are local police continuing to use the damaged station, but volunteers from The Salvation Army have also set up its headquarters in the same building.

Between 50 and 150 volunteers are in and out of the building every day, said Salvation Army spokeswoman Shelly Baker, people from all over the area, including plenty of student volunteers from nearby Union University, a local Baptist college.

Jackson is not the only place The Salvation Army is active. Several outlying areas were also hit bad by the tornado, including the town of Denmark.

Baker said she met a woman there who signed up to volunteer after her best friend and her friend's son were killed by the tornado.

"It's people like that who make The Salvation Army available to do the work that we do," she said. "It becomes a community effort."

Despite all the help, there are a few problems, Baker said. Lack of space is the big one.

A week after a major disaster, The Salvation Army would normally have a warehouse set up as a donation center. But so much warehouse space was destroyed in Jackson that this normal course of action is not possible, she said.

Until they can find a space to set up, they will have to content themselves with cash donations.

"What we need right now more than anything are monetary donations," Baker said.

The Salvation Army does have two empty truck trailers donated by Auto Zone, but they are going to need more space than that to store all the stuff that will be coming into town.

"There literally is not anything available because of the extensive damage," she said. "We're hoping, we're looking, but there is really not anything we can do."

Not only were warehouses wiped out, but churches as well. Two churches, just blocks from the police department, were totally destroyed by the storm, and a third was damaged.

The Mother Liberty Church, built in 1848, was one of churches wiped out Monday morning. Only the facade survived the storm. The rest of the building was reduced to rubble.

The Maranatha Seventh Day Adventist Church was another. Half the roof was torn off, and the entire interior was ruined by heavy rains. The Rev. Michael Hayes, pastor of the church, pointed out some of the more unusual damage: a Jackson phonebook, jammed sideways into a wall.

"You can't even pull it out," he said. "I've never seen this type of devastation before. Sometimes you can be so removed. But when it comes your way, it's something else."

Hayes said his congregation plans to rebuild on the same spot. They've been through this experience before.

"This is the second time this church has been destroyed by a tornado," he said. The last time was in 1974.

An adjoining building, also severely damaged, will have to be demolished, he said. On the other hand, no one in his church was injured, and no one incurred any major damage.

Hayes, however, neglected to mention his own misfortunes. As he drove out of the debris-littered parking lot, a plastic tarp flapped from the rear window of his car, where all the glass had been smashed out.

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