Lee County disaster relief

Volunteers surround survivor Cherry Vernon as they assess her needs.

As Lee County survivors begin to recuperate from the devastation of Sunday's tornadoes, local churches, businesses and the Emergency Management Agency collaborated to distribute tools, food and clothing at designated sites.

“We’ve had some damage to the home and roof,” survivor Cherry Vernon said. “We have a lot of debris down there. We have guys with some equipment trying to clear out the yard, so we can drive in and out of it. This church here has given us some tarps to cover the roof. That’s what we are currently trying to do: patch it up, and get it livable.”

Picking up the pieces

Various faith-based assemblies have elicited the aid of Nashville-based Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Inc. to distribute emergency supplies and care packages at Turner Fences, LLC.

“They’ve been doing this for 30 years, so 24 hours after the tornadoes hit, we already had a truck here from them,” Tenth Street Church of Christ teaching minister Bruce Green said. “They have a couple of warehouses stockpiled with stuff. They have a family food box, family personal hygiene box, infant care box and cleaning-supplies buckets. They also provide mops, brooms, rakes and shovels.”

With the requested tarp, Vernon also received two shovels, a box of food, toiletries and a wheelbarrow, and she expressed her gratitude for the church-managed distribution center.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Vernon said. “It’s really amazing that people in the surrounding communities as well as our own have come together to do stuff like this for such a traumatic thing. It’s a blessing.”

First Baptist Church of Opelika has opened its doors as well and encouraged survivors to seek emergency assistance.

Pastor Jeff Myers shared his thoughts on the disaster and the steady crowds seeking necessities.

“We are hurting because everybody in our church family knows someone that has experienced tragedy in the last few days,” Myers said. “The DNA of our church family is to provide and help those locally and internationally who are in need. We currently, on site, have almost anything somebody would need. If someone comes to our campus on 8th street in Opelika, and we do not have what they need, we will have something they do need and contact points to get them to what they do need.”

'You don't ever know'

Another survivor, Jessie Ware, sought assistance to shield his roofless home from the elements as he stays in a hotel with his wife and mother-in-law.

“I’ve got damage to my roof, glass windows busted out and trees blown away, but it wasn’t on the house,” Ware said. “I’m disabled, and it’s my mother-in-law’s house. She’s disabled. She’s about to be 85 this year, and I’m glad the churches are helping us. It’s good to have something like this because you don’t ever know, and that’s the reason why you always help out.”

Minister Willie Whack from Southside Church of Christ volunteered to serve residents like Ware and Vernon, and he emphasized the importance of helping individuals in need.

“If it happened to me, I would want someone to be there to help me as well,” Whack said. “I think that’s the basics of the Bible, 'Do unto others as you have them do unto you.' We have members that knew some of the victims that lost their lives. We’re doing what we can as far as counseling them and providing any kind of aid that we can.”

'We are still here'

With local members of the decimated community sacrificing their time, energy and money to help each other, Vernon shared her negative feelings of the circumstances, but she continued to maintain a hopeful outlook.

“The situation itself is horrible,” Vernon said. “I’ve been here all my life and never had anything this traumatic come through here. We had (Hurricane) Opal come through, but it was nothing compared to this. As far as the clean-up, it’s going great. Local people have responded with chainsaws, trucks and equipment. As for help, we have churches like this one right here all around the community, and they are in distribution mode right now.”

Church volunteers will meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. to continue distributing aid.

“It’s all coming together,” Vernon said. “All the prayers everyone can send our way is appreciated. By the grace of God, we’re still here. All of my neighbors, everybody on my road, homes and everything are gone, so it’s by his hand that we are still here. Prayers are what we need.”

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