TN town considers future recovery

BY GEORGE PIPER | JACKSON, Tenn. | January 31, 1999

JACKSON, Tenn. (Jan. 31, 1999) -- Community-based ministries are a hallmark

of the Greater Jackson Ministerial Association (GLMA) and the organization

hopes to continue that tradition as it helps West Tennessee residents

rebound from this month's tornadoes.

Agencies like the Regional Inter-Faith Association (RIFA) and Area Relief

Ministries (ARM) sprouted from GLMA to feed, cloth and aid area residents

in non-disaster times. Local ministers indicated the same commitment to

community for its response in one of the region's worst disasters, and plan

to meet Monday to develop their role.

Some 40 representatives of faith and civic organizations crowded a Jackson

Police Department meeting room last week to learn what it will take to shift

gears to disaster response mode and make an interfaith effort successful.

Charlie Moeller, a Church World Service (CWS) regional disaster resource

facilitator, led the hour-long gathering and urged GLMA to take a

leadership role in the recovery.

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 at least 266 businesses needing repairs,

according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Damage assessments occur daily, but one American Red Cross report of 171

survivors indicated only 26 were sufficiently insured.

While chainsaws roared in tornado-stricken locations, the buzz in the

interfaith meeting centered on what's likely to happen in the coming weeks

and months.

Moeller, who promised CWS assistance in setting up an interfaith disaster

response team, reminded his audience that government and immediate relief

voluntary agencies serve the area for a fixed period often ignoring the

unmet needs that eventually arise as the recovery progresses.

"It's your disaster. You'll have to live with it and you'll have to

struggle with it," Moeller said. "Give yourself a little bit of time to

think through what you're going to do."

While a strong infrastructure exists, individual agencies or organizations

shouldn't be shouldered with too much of the burden. The unmet needs

experienced after the tornado likely are greater than what these groups

normally see, added Nancy McGill, a Red Cross representative.

A collaborative recovery makes sense from a coordination standpoint, said

Larry Dooley, president of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. Since the

tornadoes struck, he's been hammering the theme of cooperation and

communication of relief efforts through the Tennessee Voluntary

Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). Now he's advocating a similar role for

the long-term.

"It's better to have one good plan than to have 15 good plans," he said.

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 GLMA for the relief and recovery effort.

Posted Jan. 31, 1999

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