The Salvation Army provides relief after storms slam South
After being held outside the zone of destruction for several days while search-and-rescue operations were underway, The Salvation Army was finally allowed into Smiths Station, Alabama, to offer food and comfort to survivors of a devastating storm.
A mobile feeding unit (canteen) of the Birmingham, Alabama, Corps set up Wednesday, March 6, at Smiths Station Baptist Church, designated a Volunteer Reception Center by Lee County, Alabama, Emergency Management. Those wishing to help stopped here to receive training and assignments.
“I’m just very grateful the tornado hit half a mile from my home in two different directions. It went over my house. I’m very grateful to the Lord that I didn’t get hurt, and I just want to help those that are,” said Yvette Greene, a county volunteer who loaded her car with meals from the canteen to share with those already in the field.
Multiple twisters, including an EF-4 tornado at least a half-mile wide and with winds up to 170 mph, tore a path 68 miles long through east central Alabama and western Georgia on Sunday, March 3. At least 23 people were killed, all in Alabama, and many others were injured. Other storms struck south Georgia and northwest Florida, leaving widespread damage there as well.
The hardest-hit communities in the north were Smiths Station and Beauregard in Lee County. Amid the devastation, emotions were raw and the emotional and spiritual care component of The Salvation Army’s service filled a great need.
“I couldn’t ask for a more awesome person to come sit with us and pray with us yesterday, that meant the world to us, and there are no words,” said Janet Baugh, a Beauregard resident who found comfort and encouragement in a visit from Major Bradley Caldwell.
The Army established an incident command post in the Holiday Inn Express in Auburn, Alabama, on Monday, March 4. A canteen from Montgomery, staffed by volunteers of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and The Salvation Army Lee County Service Center Advisory Board, set up a fixed feeding location in Opelika and remained on station through the week.
Rapid response units from Birmingham and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Command roamed Smiths Station and Beauregard, respectively, to provide food, hydration and spiritual and emotional care to residents. Many meals came from a Tyson Foods donation of 10,000 pounds of cooked chicken, delivered by refrigerated trailer to Auburn.
Meanwhile, in west Georgia, the Columbus Corps served in the parking lot of a Columbus funeral home. Canteens from Columbus and Newnan, Georgia, worked closely with Red Cross units to deliver meals throughout Talbot County, Georgia.
One hundred and forty miles to the south, in Grady County, Georgia, an EF2 tornado with winds of 120 mph Sunday shook houses, toppled trees and downed power lines.
The Salvation Army of Thomasville, Georgia, started cooking meals Tuesday for responders and impacted residents in Cairo, Georgia. Canteens from Thomasville and Bainbridge, Georgia, delivered the food to a Red Cross shelter and to residents.
Tornadoes also struck the Tallahassee, Florida, area. The Salvation Army worked with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and Leon County Emergency Management in the Baum community, where at least 10 homes were damaged, and counseled five families whose homes were destroyed.
By week’s end, the immediate disaster response was wrapping up.
The Columbus Corps stopped community feeding after the Talbot County shelter closed on Thursday, March 7. In Alabama, canteens were to demobilize Friday, March 8, after evening service delivery, and all units were to head home early Saturday, March 9.
The Grady County shelter also closed Thursday, and the Thomasville Corps was providing lunch and dinner for the area on the Bainbridge canteen through lunch Saturday.
Daphne Nabors, Don Felice and Lindsay Crossland contributed to this story.