Posted: Monday, February 4th 2013 at 1:39am
Tornado recovery provides 'super opportunity' for churches
By Rob Moore Editor
Pastors Ken and Joyce Coomer of Adairsville Church of God formerly served at Baldwin Church of God. (Photo/Rob Moore)
ADAIRSVILLE – The names and faces behind the Adairsville storm relief center efforts may look familiar to those in northeast Georgia, especially Habersham County.
That’s because Pastors Ken and Joyce Coomer of Adairsville Church of God formerly served at Baldwin Church of God (now The Torch).
The Coomers and others at their church have been going almost non-stop for days, working to help their community recover from the strongest EF-3 tornado to hit Georgia in January, with its 160-mph winds.
The Coomers shared a little about their experiences.
“It started on Wednesday when the storms hit,” Ken Coomer said. “When the storm hit, a lot of people really didn’t have anywhere to go – nowhere – so we opened up the church and actually had a shelter that day.”
“We managed to get through the storm on Wednesday,” Joyce said. “It took us two-1/2 hours re-routing around the damage. We pulled into the church parking lot. We were soaking wet from being out in it, and it dawned on us – our people, our community is going to need a place to be warm and dry tonight, and we can be that place.”
“We were the only ones that had power,” Joyce Coomer said.
“Everybody south of us had no power,” Ken said.
The strong tornado formed about 6.5 miles southwest of Adairsville, National Weather Service officials said, and caused damage in Adairsville, Sonoraville, and Oakman along its 24.5-mile path through Bartow and Gordon counties. Damage was about 400 yards wide at some points.
The tornado caused damage to some 450 homes, more than 20 of which were destroyed. Additionally, six commercial structures were destroyed and 30 others were damaged.
“The unique thing about our situation is that FEMA came, and they said that the disaster is not large enough to help us, which in reality really gave us a super opportunity for the churches to come together – and it’s not just the church, not just an organization, it’s the body of Christ,” Ken said.
“Basically, faith-based organizations are the ones that have got to carry it,” Ken said. “The most amazing thing is everybody is doing that.”
“We have been blessed here to have a unified group of pastors that really care about the community,” Joyce said. “So they are absolutely doing everything they can do.”
David Franklin, point person for Bartow Disaster Recovery, said his organization joined the recovery efforts based at the church on Thursday.
“Two years ago we had a tornado and everybody worked together,” Franklin said. “Our churches have been working together, but the Adairsville group has been spectacular. You see the church here that we’re staging out of. We just asked the pastor and he said ‘sure.’”
Franklin said the pastors all met Thursday night to discuss the plan, then conducted walking assessments of the damaged areas on Friday morning.
“We have an absolute biblical mandate to love one another, so we try to be faithful to that,” Franklin said. “But the people in the churches, they’re the ones in the local community that know folks. The people already trust them. Local people can always do more than somebody who’s 1,000 miles away.”
In addition to churches coming together, organizations, individuals, and businesses also joined forces to help in the hours and days following Wednesday’s tornado.
And the anticipated volunteer turnout of 1,000 for Saturday was eclipsed by some 600 people, with crews of 10 fanning out to clear debris and help with recovery at hundreds of locations around Adairsville.
Then, on Sunday, another 1,000 people turned out to help, pausing just long enough for a non-denominational worship service at Adairsville Church of God and a donated lunch before heading back out for clean-up efforts.
“The government can’t go on private property and remove any trees, but we can,” Ken said. “So we’re going to go on property where people have lost their homes and take the trees off and repair the roof and get things ready to go.”
Yanmar provided five tractors for use in the weekend cleanup, Joyce said.
Ken said 400 or so volunteers are expected to continue working on recovery efforts on Monday.
“It’s not an organization or a denomination – it’s Christian people who have a love for people, who are absolutely giving everything they’ve got to help the people who lost everything they had,” Ken said.
Downing Clark, located near Adairsville Church of God, was prepared with 75 beds to provide shelter for those who lost everything in Wednesday’s tornado.
“They’re prepared to help us for at least 30 days,” Ken said. “We’re going to be here for the long haul.”
Still, some churches in Adairsville have exhausted their resources assisting in the days following the disaster.
“People have stepped up and sent truckloads of food in here, and we’re just distributing it,” Joyce said. “NorthPointe Church – their ministry is called Impact – they’ve given all their food out. They need food in their food bank, because they’re handing food out as well. Living Way Church has fed 500 people a day since this has happened. These are community churches that care about their people, so we’re just excited to be Americans today because people are sending help from Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida. We’re excited about what God is doing.”
To find out how to help with ongoing relief and recovery efforts in Adairsville, log on to www.bartowrecovery.org.
“We really need Walmart cards, because we can put that card in their hand and they can spend it how they need to spend it,” Joyce said. “It doesn’t have to go through an organization. It just comes straight to us and straight into their hands. It’s very carefully monitored how it’s given out and it goes directly to those in need. If we could plead for anything, that’s the easiest and best thing that you can do. It’s better than money, it’s better than a check.”
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