Relief organizations assess response needs in W. Tenn.

BY GEORGE PIPER | JACKSON, Tenn. | January 26, 1999

JACKSON, Tenn. (Jan. 26, 1999) -- Representatives of voluntary disaster

relief organizations are meeting on nearly a daily basis here to help

coordinate efforts to help the thousands of survivors affected by deadly

storms that raked through this area last week.

More than a dozen organizations and groups are meeting with Tennessee

Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to shore up short-term relief

efforts. Members of the faith community were expected to meet Tuesday

morning with Charles Moeller, a regional facilitator with Church World

Service, to discuss creating a network to provide long-term disaster


Deadly twisters struck the area Jan. 17, killing eight people and injuring

more than 100 others. The winds destroyed 294 homes, heavily damaged

another 1,280 residences and left 266businesses needing repairs, according

to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

The VOAD established a toll-free hotline at 1-800-687-0652 for donations

and volunteers and has helped set-up a multi-agency warehouse being set up

in nearby Bemis, said Richard Ramey, Tennessee VOAD chairman.

Funds collected via the toll-free number will be funneled into an account

established by the Greater Jackson Ministerial Association for the relief

and recovery effort.

Other VOAD participants are lending a hand as well. Some of the efforts


The Tennessee Baptist Convention, has been running feeding units in

cooperation with the American Red Cross, and have delivered more than 7,500

meals. The Salvation Army also is operating a canteen in neighborhoods

where the tornadoes struck.

Area United Methodist congregations have scheduled a clean up day and

prayer vigil on Saturday, Jan. 30 and plan to continue a door-to-door needs

assessment. The denomination is also training its clergy to counsel

children traumaticized by the disaster.

Second Harvest is collecting food, bedding and hygiene items for survivors.

The Jackson Chamber of Commerce provided telephone banks and helped the

VOAD acquire equipment for the warehouse. Area Lions clubs are giving

vouchers for food, clothing, medicine, shoes, bedding and kitchen equipment.

Mennonite Disaster Assistance, Regional Inter-Faith Association of Jackson,

and the local United Way are among other organizations participating in the


Besides the services from the faith-based and civic group, Ramey is

encouraging cash donations, that will allow relief organizations to buy

needed items. Purchasing such things locally also helps the area's economy,

he added. Bottled water, tarps, work gloves, garbage bags and yard tools

also are on Ramey's short-term list.

Volunteer response is strong, noted Ramey, although the available help

currently outweighs the need. "People want to volunteer right then, and

it's hard to tell them we don't need them right now," he said.

The community's response in helping neighbors has been overwhelming and

genuine, said Jim Irwin, pastor at Jackson First Presbyterian Church. The

congregation sent out three cleanup teams for three days last week.

Youth group members involved in the relief felt a special sense of

accomplishment as they assisted their neighbors. "They could see very

clearly the effect they had on the situation," said David Bubb, associate

pastor at First Presbyterian. "It is crucial for young people to see the

value of their success."

Updated Jan. 26, 1999

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