Sunday, my congregation spent part of the worship hour honoring those involved in tornado relief efforts. I thought it would good to pass much of that information along, as I know many readers have been in prayer about the destruction here in Tuscaloosa and many have given money and supplies for relief.
We thanked —
The countless volunteers, local and from all around the country, who showed up with chain saws and hammers to help Tuscaloosans dig out and rebuild. We’ve had volunteers come from as far away as Arizona, Oregon, and Pennsylvania — even from Auburn!
Volunteers who helped man the office to coordinate workers, schedule volunteers, to receive phone calls from around the country. We had to keep the phones manned 7 days a week, and this was done by volunteers.
Church member Sandy Campbell, who organized the many volunteers who slept in our building. With her help, we provided over 2,000 free nights of sleep.
Our members Jean Campbell, Catherine Bell, and Jamie Graham, who oversaw the work of feeding first responders in the field and volunteers. Approximately 4,000 meals were served at the church building: breakfast, supper, some sack lunches in the first days. Jamie and his crew provided over 1,500 meals in midst of the devastation.
The Church of Christ Disaster Relief Team, who used our facilities as a staging area until the end of June. They dispatched volunteers in coordination with the city for two months.
About $250,000 (not counting money donated to rebuild the Central Church of Christ building) was donated by our members and by people from around the country.
So far, we’ve helped re-establish displaced families — 45 families so far — by providing furniture, appliances, kitchen utensils, bedding, kitchen supplies, etc. for good people who lost everything. We’ve made countless friends in the community as our members have worked side by side with displaced families to help get them back on their feet.
The University Church has purchased 431 individual boxes of school supplies, along with backpacks, for the Alberta Elementary students who are displaced and now attending
Tuscaloosa Magnet School next door to University Church. Those boxes will be distributed personally by members of the church.
Our Harvest Hands ministry increased the weekly distribution of groceries by 50%. During the first week after the tornado, Harvest Hands served over 200 sacks and then averaged 125 through the end of May.
So far, thanks to a group out of Fort Deposit, we have furnished 4 families with a used car at no cost to them.
The College Hills Baptist Church has been meeting rent-free in our CampusView Auditorium, and will be there until their building is rebuilt.
The Central Church of Christ Preschool met rent-free in our elementary classrooms until they found a permanent home.
Many local and national charities learned that they could count on the University Church and the parents associated with our home school program to provide volunteers to unload trucks and to organize and help with distributions. We were proud to have so many charities and businesses let us help with the distribution programs. Anyone who visited the building during this time couldn’t miss the many RV’s, supply trailers, or the use of our facilities as a drop off point for supplies.
We worked with Maude Whatley Clinic, Free Pediatric Clinic, Good Samaritan, numerous churches, 3 hospices, Tuscaloosa One Place, Turning Point, the County Health Department,
the Lloyd Wood School that served the displaced Alberta Elementary kids, all who used the University Church as a distribution point for supplies.
We were blessed to work with the national Feed The Children organization on 3 different occasions, one at the University Church building, one at Office Depot (Tuscaloosa Wal-Mart
parking lot), and one with the Salvation Army in the McFarland Mall parking lot.
Cabi clothes used University Church as a distribution point to help get new clothing to tornado victims — over 450 ladies got new outfits compliments of Cabi.
Samaritan’s Feet also used the University Church to distribute over 600 pairs of children shoes.
The weekend of August 5, clothes from Ann Taylor and Columbia will be distributed by the University Church.
Whew! And that’s not all of it, but you see what it’s been like. A lot of people have been very generous with time and money. People have worked incredibly hard — and Jesus has been glorified.
The churches in town (not just the Churches of Christ) worked closely together to coordinate needs and supplies. The churches worked closely with city government. And both performed very well. In fact, there’s not a FEMA trailer in Tuscaloosa, because everyone was voluntarily relocated into existing housing. A few landlords have even provided housing for free.
We’re now at the phase where nearly everyone has found a home, but many with houses or apartments have nothing at all — no beds, linens, forks, or spoons. And we’re filling that need, along with a few other churches in town. That’s been a richly rewarding effort for those involved. You’d be impressed with the work of the men who head that program. They’ve been amazing.
School is about to start, and two elementary schools were utterly destroyed. Kids are being crowded into other schools and being bused far from their old neighborhoods. Of course, they no longer live in their old neighborhoods, and this will be traumatic for many children. Many children have lost their houses, their neighborhoods, their school, and their church. It’s tough, and the community trying hard to give these kids some sense of normalcy and security.
Thanks to all who’ve donated money or supplies and to all who’ve lifted us up in their prayers. You know, there are days when you can feel the prayers lifting you an inch or two toward heaven. Please keep on praying.