ALWAYS LIKE THE FIRST TIME
Andy Hollifield 4-23-19
The mission work that the Lord has allowed me to do is a wonderful life. It is hard work, lots of driving, sometimes thankless work but most of the time we are met with sincere gratitude. Such was the case on Monday when we arrived in Smith Station, Alabama. The ladies from city hall were extremely grateful and begin to talk about who needed the items we brought. Renee, the lady pictured on the left, gave us a small tour of the immediate area around Smith Station including the home she was in. She watched the roof on her cousins mobile home roll like ocean waves when the storm hit but yet somehow stay intact. About 200 to 300 yards away from where she was, her neighbors homes were completely demolished. Some of the areas we were in, we saw houses untouched and totally intact on one side of the narrow rural road and across the street bare ground where homes used to be. We stood in a driveway across from the elementary school in the picture. The school sustained damage to the entire roof and the homes between the school and where we were standing were gone. One stick built home two houses up the road from where we were standing was lifted from its foundation and set down in the yard. It was so damaged it had to be destroyed.
As usual in these situations, we found out a lot about the resilience of the people of the area. Like in most places during disaster recovery, they still have plenty of looting going on. People stealing from people that have lost almost everything and taking what little they have left. You find those pathetic individuals everywhere in those situations. The other side of that coin is that it also brings out the best in people. Smith Station is a community of neighbors helping neighbors. The lady we met across from the school is trying to take care of all of her neighbors and trying to find anything they need and get it for them. She could be sitting comfortably in her home enjoying life but she refuses to do that when her neighbors all around her are suffering. Even Renee from city hall is only a volunteer and has been working tirelessly since the storm to help those in need. She has also went about finding needed items for anyone and everyone that needs them. She told us that if the tornado hadn’t turned when it did, it would have went right across the home she was in. We saw just a few people working on their property and those were the fortunate ones that still had something worth salvaging. We were also told of a woman with two teenage sons from a previous marriage that lost her current husband who she had just been married to less than a year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is no assistance available for her because she didn’t have physical property damage. Her husband was her primary source of income and now not only has she lost him but she is struggling financially to keep everything she didn’t lose in the storm. If I remember the story right, her husband had went to check on his elderly parents and was there when the storm hit their home. I am not sure if they survived or not.
As sad as all of this is, the tragic part is that the country has moved on. The media that had swarmed Smith Station and Beauregard in the first couple of weeks after the storm have now moved on to the next big thing. Meanwhile these folks are left picking up what is left of their lives. They are still in need of carpentry and yard tools, school supplies, gloves, nails, nail aprons, tool belts, wheelbarrows, tents, sleeping bags, and also non perishable food. It is state law in Alabama that only new clothing can be distributed in times following a disaster. This is understandable because there is not enough staff anywhere during these times to sort and fold clothes. This also protects them from receiving worn out stuff that folks just don’t want to throw away and yes that does happen. If anyone would like to take the lady that lost her husband on as a project to help her financially, please let me know and it can either be mailed to Renee at the city hall or I can deliver it to the lady personally on my next trip.
I would like to thank Pastor Aaron McLane in Unicoi, Tennessee and his church as well as the students at David Crockett High School in Jonesboro, Tennessee for all of the stuff they collected and donated as well as their financial support and bibles. We also had a gentleman in Myrtle Beach, SC that is affiliated with Help 4 Kids donate 1000 dollars when he was told we were making a trip to Alabama. I can’t fail to mention my friend Phil Martin and all the guys at Carolina Pawn and Gun in Canton, NC that gave us a tremendous deal on some circular saws to take down. Also not to be forgotten is Help 4 Kids in Myrtle Beach, SC and Swannanoa, NC that provided the school supplies and toys as well as securing the cash donation for us. I also want to extend a very special thank you to all of the supporting churches of our ministry who continually provide the financial support as well as food items that make all of these trips, as well as everything else we do, possible. I have a wonderful ministry board that supports these trips and continually communicates our needs to their churches.
In closing I want to mention my own opinion about these disaster sites. I have been on several since 1992 from hurricanes to floods and tornadoes and . That wasn’t just a catchy title but it really breaks my heart and put a nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach to see it and realize it is always someone’s life’s work and such as in this case, it even cost some their lives. It never changes and even though I have seen the devastation numerous times, it really is always like the first timed it just always makes you want to do a little more. Thanks again for all everyone does to make all of this possible. God bless each of you. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!