From staff and press reports
From the First Lady of the State Deborah Bryant to thousands of other volunteers have been invaluable to every effort from the moment the tornado hit to many moments in the future.
First Lady Deborah Bryant volunteered most of May 5 with Samaritan’s Purse and was on hand Monday, April 28 when the tornado hit. She had sought refuge in the Winston County Courthouse when tornados were threatening as she returned from Smithville, MS.
She volunteered that Monday night helping set up the shelters which would come in desperate need within hours and all the way into the next week. Deborah Bryant continued volunteering in Winston County into midday Tuesday after the tornado.
Winston County EMA Director Buddy King credited Mrs. Bryant with organizing all the shelters in the most efficient manner possible.
More with this story and other volunteer stories and survivor stories in the May 14 edition.
Volunteers line up
The local, county and state officials are encouraging people who want to help with recovery to register, so they can match skills with needs and make sure volunteers arrive at the right time.
Volunteers from hours after the tornado were and are manning collection points for donations inside the dirt-floored Louisville Coliseum, and the Christian group Samaritan’s Purse is helping to coordinate outside help along with the Red Cross.
The needs of Winston County’s 19,000 residents is great, after a tornado killed at 10 people and flattened more than 1500 buildings.
Robert Latham, director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, believes volunteers can help. He’s encouraging those who want to help to register through the volunteermississippi.org website, to make sure people’s skills can be matched with the needs following the disaster. Without coordination, he said, volunteer contributions can be lost.
“If you don’t have a plan for those folks to register, check in and organize, then they’ll just move on,” Latham said. “When you bring volunteers in and you don’t give them something to do, they get frustrated.”
North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse is set up a disaster response unit at the coliseum, a livestock arena on the north side of town. The group’s Tony McNeil said Samaritan’s Purse has worked out a plan to house 100 volunteers at Friendship Baptist Church in Sturgis, feeding them there and transporting them to Louisville. The group will also coordinate volunteers from the local area who just want to work for the day.
“We work with the homeowner,” McNeil said. “We’ll be helping them search through debris for personal property. We’ll tarp roofs, take debris out.”
McNeil said the group was scheduling for four weeks, but would stay “as long as we have the volunteers and the work available.”
Sean Greer, a pastor at Concord Baptist Church in Macon, Mississippi, is among those working with Samaritan’s Purse. He’s volunteered all over the South and Midwest, but this disaster is personal for him. He grew up in Louisville.
His wife was among the teachers in the Louisville school system who helped sort donated clothing and goods on Wednesday. Officials said Wednesday that people should stop bringing clothes because so many have been received already, but they need more canned goods.
“It’s diapers, it’s canned goods, it’s the biggest cans of tuna I’ve ever seen,” Greer said, surveying a coliseum half-filled with goods stacked on tarps. “We’ve had semi-trucks of water come in here.”
Louisville residents Levarski Haynes and Darius Brown dropped off food and plastic plates donated by two barber shops and a car wash. “We all put together and just decided to cook,” Haynes said. “We were fortunate that we didn’t get hit by that storm.”
To donate funds
For Deposits for Tornado Relief:
PO Box 389
Louisville, Mississippi 39339
Make Checks Payable to:
Winston Community Development Disaster Relief Fund