Armed with food, water, counselors and a spirit of hope, church groups have been rallying around victims of the monster tornado that ripped through the Southeastern United States on Wednesday, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.
"Downed trees, destroyed homes, people being fed… everything you see on the news it's all here," said The Salvation Army public information officer, Laura Stafford, describing what she saw when she first arrived in Adairsville, Ga., to The Christian Post on Thursday. "A lot of people are coming here (temporary shelter) with absolutely nothing in their hands. What they have on is all they have left," said Stafford.
CNN reported that the tornado, caused by a 1,000-mile-long storm that would eventually stretch from New York to Florida, wreaked havoc in Adairsville. Authorities reported one death in that town while another was killed in Tennessee.
In response, the Salvation Army as of Thursday morning had deployed first responders in Calhoun and Adairsville, providing some 125 meals, 100 drinks, 42 cups of coffee, 35 snacks and administered four sessions of emotional and spiritual care.
"As The Salvation Army is assessing the damage in Bartow and Gordon County, our first and foremost response is to make sure that the storm survivors and first responders' basic needs are met," said Major Jim Smith, emergency disaster services coordinator for The Salvation Army of Georgia, in a statement Thursday. "We are working tirelessly to make sure they are fed, given something to drink and prayed for."
Before The Salvation Army arrived on the scene, however, it was the local churches, like Adairsville Church of God, that rallied behind the victims in the nascent moments of the tornado's aftermath.
"It was the local churches who first pitched in," said Stafford. "Adairsville Church of God provided shelter for one night and there are other local churches that have been rallying and supporting those in need," she said. "I've seen cases of water being delivered. Some people have brought clothes which will be going to The Salvation Army's family store in Cartersville," she added.
She noted that The Salvation Army was also coordinating efforts in the area with the American Red Cross, which set up a temporary shelter in a local park. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 35 people there. "We are going to be here until at least Sunday. After Sunday, we will start talking about long term recovery," said Stafford. In the meantime, the organization's immediate response remains mass feeding and proving emotional and spiritual care.
Other faith-based organizations such as the Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief are also getting ready to join the response. "We are doing assessments right now and mobilizing efforts on the ground," said Stuart Lang, state director for the organization.
The Salvation Army is asking people who want to help those affected by this disaster to visit www.salvationarmygeorgia.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. At this point, in-kind donations, such as used clothing and used furniture, are not being accepted for tornado/storm relief. However, these items are vital to supporting the day-to-day work of your local Salvation Army and can be donated at local Salvation Army Family posts.