Mission Continues Amidst Pandemic and Easter Tornadoes


By Jasmine Haynes, Communications Specialist
Mississippi United Methodist Conference

ERTs from Brandon First, St. Mark's, St. Luke's and
Galloway Memorial United Methodist churches
assess tornado damage in Seminary, Miss. from a
view on the only roof standing.
Photo courtesy of Mellie Thomas
Laurel, Miss.— In the last two weeks people in the Mississippi Pine Belt have been hit with not one, but two waves of tornadoes and severe weather since first being impacted by tornadoes on Easter Sunday. Loss of property and belongings only add to the trauma and damage survivors have endured within the context of limited access to basic needs and growing unemployment in this global coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to donations from the United Methodist Committee on Relief—better known as UMCOR, Matthew 25 Ministries, volunteers from Laurel First and Antioch United Methodist churches and the Laurel Catholic Diocese, the mission to alleviate suffering for those impacted by disaster continues. Recently, UMCOR and Matthew 25 Ministries delivered disaster recovery supplies to the Crumbley Paper and Food Service Warehouse in Laurel. The Crumbley Family volunteered their facility and some of their workers to aid in unloading the truck that carried a shipment all the way from Ohio. The items on the truck range from tarps, batteries and PPE gear, to personal care items like soap, shampoo and paper towels. According to delivery and distribution coordinator, Laura Sappington, even in planning for this hand-off there was an unanticipated abundance.
Volunteers from Antioch and Laurel First United Methodist churches, UMCOR and Laurel Catholic Diocese help distribute supplies. Photo courtesy of Miss. Conf. Disaster Response Facebook page.

“We were completely surprised when the Matthew 25 Ministries shipment was 44 pallets,” shared Sappington. “We had been told the shipment was 26 pallets and to be blessed by the additional numbers was an unexpected gift!”

Volunteers equally distributed 10 to 12 pallets containing laundry detergent, diapers, cleaning wipes, safety reflectors, hygiene kits, tornado buckets, masks and cleaning buckets from UMCOR to Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Management Agencies (EOC/EMA) from the five counties impacted by the Easter Sunday tornadoes—Jasper, Jones, Covington, Jeff Davis and Lawrence. The EOC/EMA representatives have addresses of the people who need the most assistance and will distribute the items among those five counties. The last official numbers reported by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s (MEMA) initial damage assessment is that approximately 1,550 homes had been severely damaged by the last three rounds of tornadoes and severe weather.

Sappington notes that the EOC/EMA representatives were amazed and thankful at the amount of supplies they were being given and that The United Methodist Church had arranged the distribution.
UMCOR hygiene kits and cleaning buckets, PPE materials and personal care supplies. Photo courtesy of Miss. Conf. Disaster Response Facebook page

“One question we were asked several times is ‘how did you get your hands on all this toilet paper and paper towels,’” said Sappington. “All I could do was grin, point towards heaven and say, ‘It helps when you know who to ask to fulfill your needs.’”

Lawrence County EMA director, Tony Norwood expressed his gratitude for the needed materials by declaring, “I just wanted to say thank you so much for the supplies. Our county was hit pretty hard again Wednesday night and because of your donations, we have been able to help so many. Thank you will never be enough but if I can ever be of any help please feel free to call on me and my team.”

The Mississippi Conference Disaster Response Team is working alongside local churches and agencies in affected areas to plan response efforts in the aftermath of the Easter severe weather events of April 12 and the tornadoes that followed days later. In these early stages of disaster response, the needs are ever-evolving and urgent. The COVID-19 restrictions add an additional layer of complexity as Mississippi Conference Disaster Response Teams seek to safely serve these communities. Assessments are ongoing, but thanks to United Methodist connectional ministries, Mississippi early response teams (ERTs) have been tarping homes to secure them from further damage. Additionally, UMCOR has awarded the Mississippi United Methodist Conference a $10,000 solidarity grant that will go towards much needed relief supplies.
ERTs tarping damaged roof. Photos courtesy of Mellie Thomas
These distributions and donations are helping local families to recover; however, assessments are ongoing, and much assistance is still needed to transition from immediate response into long-term recovery.

Unlike most disaster response agencies, when you make a gift to UMCOR, you can be assured that 100 percent of your donation will go to those impacted by the disaster. For those who would like to send donations, visit the conference website here: https://bit.ly/easterstorms

The goal of the Mississippi Conference Disaster Response Team is to effectively manage resources– information, supplies, volunteers and financial assistance—available to our churches before, during and after disaster. Please stay alert for additional information.

About the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)

Founded in 1940, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the global humanitarian aid and development agency of The United Methodist Church. UMCOR is working in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the United States and its territories. Our mission, grounded in the teachings of Jesus, is to alleviate human suffering—whether caused by war, conflict or natural disaster— with open hearts and minds to all people. UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters that are interruptions of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community's ability to recover on its own. UMCOR works through programs that address hunger, poverty, sustainable agriculture, international and domestic emergencies, refugee and immigrant concerns, global health issues and transitional development. Learn more at www.UMCOR.org, www.Facebook.com/UMCOR and www.twitter.com/UMC_UMCOR.

Media Contact:
Jasmine Haynes, communications specialist for the Mississippi United Methodist Conference

320 Briarwood Drive
Jackson, MS 39206
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