Churches offer help to storm victims

TUPELO – More than a week after deadly tornadoes ravaged Monroe and Chickasaw counties, churches continue to lead the way in offering help.
Most relief teams are wrapping up their initial emergency response and are starting cleanup and long-term repair and rebuilding efforts.
“By and large people are accounted for, roofs are patched up and trees have been cut back off houses so now we can move into the next phase,” said the Rev. Randy Rinehart, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church in Houston, one of two Houston churches working in the communities of Buena Vista and Trebloc in southeast Chickasaw County.
On Thursday, Parkway began helping victims restock their kitchens, and donations of small appliances, silverware and canned food can be dropped off at the National Guard Armory in Houston.
An arborist from Wyoming has arrived to help members of First Baptist Church Houston in clearing downed and damaged trees, which are still posing problems to residents in Trebloc and McCondy.
The Houston Ministerial Alliance also has established a fund at Regions Bank to receive and disburse donations.
In the Monroe County communities of Darden, Wren and Egypt, as well as in south Okolona, victims of the storm continue to receive help from Okolona First Baptist Church.
“Our brothers and sisters at Tupelo First Baptist Church have been tremendously helpful,” said the Rev. Eric Boykin, pastor of Okolona First Baptist, adding that a rather large, recent love offering Tupelo First collected has gone a long way toward supporting the efforts of several churches working in Chickasaw and Monroe counties.
“We’re consolidating our strategies,” said Boykin, adding that Becky Childs, a central coordinator working out of First Baptist Church Amory, is helping with logistical concerns, including making sure volunteers and donations are being used effectively.
Southern Baptists are also exploring a possible partnership with Eight Days of Hope to rebuild homes, according to Boykin.
Amory First Baptist Church recently closed its official Red Cross shelter, but the church continues to offer food, clothing and all manner of supplies to those who need it.
“The response and generosity of people has been great, and we’ve really got a lot of supplies here,” said the Rev. Allen Simpson, First Baptist’s senior pastor.
After assisting with the most immediate phases of disaster response in Smithville, United Methodists are now shifting most of their efforts to Webster and Chickasaw counties.
“We’re doing mostly muscle work,” said the Rev. Scott Wright, disaster relief coordinator for the church’s Tupelo District. That includes debris removal, cleaning and general assessment.
Methodists are gearing up to offer long-term assistance, including counseling and help sorting out insurance and other financial concerns.
Starting soon the United Methodist Committee on Relief will offer case management, helping families map out a recovery plan.
“This is a time when the energy and connectivity of the church can serve us well in helping folks recover,” said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward.
Those needing assistance should contact the Tupelo District Office of the United Methodist Church.

Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or galen.holley@journalinc.com.

Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal