MBC Disaster Relief aid Caruthersville
By Brian Koonce
April 18, 2006
CARUTHERSVILLE – Once again spring has brought destructive weather to Missouri and once again, the state’s Baptist disaster relief personnel have sprung into action.
At least one tornado tore through the small city of Caruthersville April 2, damaging sixty percent of the homes and killing five in the area, according to the Missouri Emergency Management Agency, prompting President George W. Bush to declare the county a federal disaster area. Even before the clouds had fully dispersed, disaster relief units from Cape Girardeau were on the way to clear debris, feed the victims and care for children while their parents sifted through the rubble.
The southeast Missouri feeding unit set up shop at First Baptist Church, Hayti, five miles northwest of the hardest hit area. The unit bussed in nearly 2,000 meals a day past National Guard and Missouri Highway Patrol check points to feed the thousands in town without power, water or homes. The unit was deactivated April 12, having served more than 20,000 hot, free meals.
The childcare unit was still serving as of press time at a Red Cross shelter, caring for 83 children so far. A childcare unit from Illinois Baptists was also assigned to Caruthersville.
The chainsaw crews, unlike the feeding unit, still have a big job on their hands, workers said. In the five days after the storm first hit, they felled 47 damaged trees — and distributed 50 Bibles. Unfortunately, they still have 40 work orders on their lists.
“The Chainsaw work will continue for as long as crews are available,” said John Rhodes, disaster relief coordinator for Southeast Missouri. “There is still much to be done.”
The yellow shirts of the Missouri Baptist disaster relief volunteers have been a welcome sight to victims and other recovery workers alike, Rhodes said. Even a stop for gas along the road to Caruthersville garners a heartfelt “thank you.”
“Everyone is happy to see us,” said Tim Abanathy, director of missions for Southeast Missouri Baptist Association. “The chainsaw crews are the more visible of the teams but we know we’re making a difference.”