Hope Blossoms in Alabama
By Susan Kim*
April 24, 2012 – Even as southern and Midwest states respond to recent tornadoes, Alabama is still recovering a year after the largest twister outbreak ever recorded. With volunteer teams working across the state repairing and rebuilding homes, responders in Alabama said they see hope coming back into the faces of tornado survivors who lived through four days of violent storms on April 25-28, 2011.
On April 27 alone, 208 tornadoes touched down, and four of them were rated F5 on the Fujita Scale, the highest ranking possible.
“There are repairs and rebuilds going on in almost every affected area,” said Nancy Cole, North Alabama Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator. “If we hadn't had help from UMCOR, we wouldn't be this far along.”
In addition to both emergency and long-term recovery grants that totaled $1 million during 2011, UMCOR was able to offer an additional $500,000 grant for 2012 that will enable The United Methodist Church, working closely with other faith-based and voluntary groups, to continue to help as many people as possible.
The days and weeks after the storm revealed that more than 20,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. “Volunteers have come in unselfishly,” said Cole. “Well over 140 teams have come in this year, and we have at least 60 scheduled through July.”
Matt Lacey, director of mission and advocacy as well as Volunteers in Mission coordinator for the North Alabama Conference, said he remains grateful for the phone calls and e-mails that have offered prayers and support.
Lacey said he spent some time helping volunteers realize that the best time to arrive isn't always right after the clouds have cleared. “In the days after the storm, the least helpful calls I received were from out-of-town volunteers who said, 'We're on our way. Where should we stay?' ” he said. “Through this whole process, I learned to be as articulate as I could with our needs.”
The sheer magnitude of this disaster made response challenging, and long-term recovery is likely to continue for another few years, said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR's assistant general secretary for US Disaster Response.
“Considering the fact that some 250 people died in Alabama during these storms, the local churches and neighbors who reached out then and are still reaching out now are vitally important, and they need our support,” he said.
The time to volunteer in Alabama is now, he added. “For everyone who wanted to rush onsite and help last year, I urge you to consider organizing a team, planning your trip, and getting involved in Alabama's long-term recovery. It might not be making headlines, but it's an exciting place to be right now.”
Help UMCOR be there through the years of long-term recovery after a disaster. Give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to UMCOR.org.