TN town expects lengthy recovery

BY GEORGE PIPER | JACKSON, Tenn. | February 19, 1999

JACKSON, Tenn. (Feb. 19, 1999) -- Just as the sight of a robin signals

the coming Spring, the steady ping of hammers striking nails indicates an

attempt at normalcy in western Tennessee.

It was just over a month ago on Jan. 17, that nature turned deadly and

destructive when tornadoes ripped through Jackson and touched other

communities in a nine-county area. The Sunday night tornadoes killed eight

and damaged or destroyed some 1,600 homes.

But in a sign that the emphasis has shifted from immediate relief to

long-term recovery, state and federal agencies will soon wrap up their

operations, while community groups are assessing what still remains to be


Cash and building supplies are the main local needs now, but a widespread

call for volunteers to help in the rebuilding is expected to be issued


"This is such a closed-knit community that pretty much everyone has

relatives around here that are helping out," said Hope Cooper,

communications director for the United Way of West Tennessee, which is

working with the Jackson Chamber of Commerce to distribute funds and direct

people to assistance.

Representatives from Mennonite Disaster Services are in Jackson helping

rebuild some homes. The organization is working with a local youth group,

Youth Town, and teaching them some basic carpentry skills.

The Greater Jackson Ministerial Association is encouraging its members and

other churches to "adopt" families impacted by the disaster.

Individual church efforts will continue at least until the association gets

some additional training on handling long-term recovery, said Randy Carter,

senior pastor at Northside Assembly Church and president of the ministerial


He is hopeful that the area churches will be able to work together in this

capacity. The association reached out to all area churches to get them

involved. "All of the churches have been doing a great job reaching out to

people," he said.

Charlie Moeller, a Church World Service regional disaster resource

facilitator, will visit Jackson in early March to help churches gear up for

the recovery process, which includes conducting needs assessments and

working with volunteers.

"I'll simply be trying to help the interfaith get organized and get going,"

he said.

Local industry and the United Way raised more than $200,000 for disaster

survivors. Meanwhile the United Methodist Committee on Relief received a

$35,000 check this week from a fund raised by a local television station.

The check was given to the faith-based organization said Steve Crain,

assignments manager for WMC-TV Channel 5, because "We wanted to be sure

that every single penny of the money is used to help tornado victims -- not

for administration."

A warehouse established by Adventist Disaster Services to house donated

goods closed this week. The items will be given to local organizations such

as the Salvation Army and the Regional Inter-Faith Association, said

Richard Ramey, Seventh Day Adventist executive director for community

services and disaster relief in Tennessee and state VOAD chair.

With January tornadoes cutting a devastating swath from Jackson to

Clarksville, Ramey hopes Tennessee citizens will pay closer attention to

Severe Weather Awareness Week, which begins Feb. 22. "We definitely want

people to be in tune" to weather dangers, he said.

Posted Feb. 19, 1999

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