With the one-year anniversary of the tornadoes that struck Lee County, the memorial and remembrance, this is what Alabama Rural Ministry along with the Alabama West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church and in partnership with MEND are working upon:
Our case managers are working with survivors who are in the process of repairing and rebuilding. For those who were renting, we continue working to help them find an affordable and stable rental solution.
The team of four case managers has 63 survivor cases to date. Thirteen are closed and 50 are in progress. Not all cases require rebuilding or repairing homes, although this does make up the bulk of the response.
Various servicesCase management also involves trauma recovery, finding new rental homes, reclaiming lost property and more. Case managers help a survivor define what recovery means to them and develop a recovery plan, helps navigate with FEMA, SBA and insurance companies, helps with medical issues from the storm and a wealth of other effects of the disaster.
Surely the rebuilding and reconstruction is also a significant bulk of the response. Ultimately, the goal of disaster recovery is to help a survivor get as close to pre-disaster as possible with a focus on safe, sanitary and secure. Furthermore, it is to equip them to face whatever other storms may come throughout their journey.
Our team of two construction coordinators never has a slow day. We have completed 14 homes needing repairs, many with extensive damage. There are 14 more in progress and six in the estimate stage.
There are 13 more survivors getting in position to have their repairs or home replacements funded. Of the 13, there are approximately five needing to replace their homes.
There are three housing rebuilding partners with whom we are working: Auburn Rural Studio, the Fuller Center for Housing and Mennonite Disaster Services.
We are grateful to the funding partners who meet twice per month at the MEND funding table. There are representatives from the Community Foundation of East Alabama, Catholic Charities, East Alabama Medical Center, United Way, 10th Street Church of Christ, United Methodist Committee on Relief and several local churches in our area.
Hundreds of volunteersThe city of Smiths Station has also funded a significant amount of recovery in its community. The funders have given $123,858 for the cases we have presented and a total of $247,983 (that we are aware of) for all clients. This does not consider the value of 14 homes and furniture given by Samaritan’s Purse and the 18 homes built by the Fuller Center.
The volume of volunteers is staggering. Many groups continue coming to serve. Sixty-four separate volunteer groups amounting to 922 volunteers and 11,602 volunteer hours have served in Lee County through our tracking system. This equates to $290,050 in donated labor.
This does not include the Fuller build or several local churches in our area that have helped their neighbors and have done so quietly and without feeling the need to report their numbers. The Lee County EMA has a more comprehensive number that substantially increases this number. It points to churches and organizations that love Lee County and their neighbors.
What is left? Unfortunately, it is hard reaching everyone.
Not everyone answers their phone or responds to our texts when we reach out to check and see how they are doing and their status. But, based upon those who do, we have made over 219 calls the past three months (and over 700 total).
Rural ministryVolunteer groups are lined up through the summer. Alabama Rural Ministry will host groups coming in from several places around the United States such as Penn State University, University of Alabama, Arkansas and more to love on our community. March will be a big month of spring break teams and summer teams.
Alabama Rural Ministry owns a church and parsonage in Tuskegee, where we can host large groups. We have triple-decker-bunk beds, six showers, a fellowship hall with kitchen, and lots of space dedicated to these volunteers. A small warehouse recently acquired will allow for better material and tool storage.
Our construction coordinators pack tool bins, purchase materials and assist the volunteers at sites. There are other churches in our community that also host teams expanding our capacity.
Recently a national organization called Stars of Hope USA www.starsofhopeusa.org traveled with its tour bus of hope into Lee County.
Using art as therapy, it travels to disaster areas and hangs decorated, wooden stars, painted by children from previous disaster areas from across the world. Shortly after the storm, these stars showed up throughout Lee County.
Last week the tour bus came through so children in both Beauregard and Smiths Station could paint stars to go to other communities.
If you know of people in Lee County who were in the tornado path and did not receive help or maybe have discovered they could use an extra hand, please let us know. Our focus currently is on those who filed for FEMA assistance.
However, we will continue working with anyone in the tornado track and whose damage or home repair needs are directly related to the storm.
Want to help?Finally, if you would like to volunteer, we would love to have you. Our next workday is March 21. You can email Andrew Baird at email@example.com.
Our number is 334-501-4276, ext. 500, or ext. 600.
We are encouraged each day and hope you are, too.