Church acts as response hub

The Rev. Dr. Nick Pappis, pastor of the Christ the King Church, was a busy man Saturday afternoon.

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

"It's encouraging to see people who care."

—Reggie Smith

The Rev. Dr. Nick Pappis, pastor of the Christ the King Church here, was a busy man Saturday afternoon.

First, Pappis' church has been converted into an emergency relief center, and the American Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter for more than 50 people in one of the buildings on the church grounds. The place was bustling with activity tornado survivors flowing in to get assistance, and a steady stream of volunteers going out into nearby communities to provide food, water and medical assistance.

Then Pappis has new volunteers pouring in. Saturday afternoon, he was trying to get two new ones, who came from New York, squared away.

But minutes after he finished with the new volunteers, a pregnant woman with diabetes showed up in the church. Pappis hurried away.

He returned a few minutes later, sweating profusely and looking a bit overwhelmed.

"I'm sorry, but the heat was starting to get to me," he said.

Meanwhile, volunteers at the church are cranking out more than 1,200 meals a day, Pappis said. In addition, the entire church basement is serving as a makeshift donation center.

Denise Stafford drove down from Gleason to donate a $107 worth of diapers, cleaning supplies, baby food and canned goods she bought herself.

"I've been going around and trying to help people," Stafford said. "You know, just spread the love around, because people need it."

Reggie Smith, 72, a Jackson native, was so impressed by what Pappis and his parishioners are doing that he showed up to give the church a check.

"The world talks about ministry," Smith said, "but they're doing it here. I cannot believe the way they have embraced this tragedy. It's encouraging to see people who care."

Smith said the devastation in town is unprecedented.

"We've never seen this kind of physical damage in my lifetime," he said.

The damage is so extensive that the Red Cross has two shelters in town that are still housing people nearly a week after the tornado hit. In addition, the Red Cross also has a case management center at a separate location.

Normally, the Red Cross would put up storm survivors in local hotels, but there no vacancies left aware in town, due to the large influx of homeless families, out-of-town utility workers and relief workers.

"The hotel situation is such that people aren't able to get rooms," said Courtney Prebich, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross. "Everything's just booked solid."

Besides the Red Cross, another group is also stationed on the church grounds: a disaster response team from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

Tom Nelson, a DAV national service officer, and his wife Kim drove a DAV disaster assistance van down from Roanoke, Va., to bring help to veterans here in Jackson.

Friday, they gave out more than $17,000. By midday Saturday, they had already given out more than $12,000.

The aid goes to veterans and families of veterans affected by the storm, Nelson said.

"The DAV is usually somewhere around the area trying to help veterans out," he said.

Nelson said he made an appeal on a radio station on Thursday, and that generated a massive response.

"They just came in droves," he said. "We probably had a couple hundred show up yesterday."

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