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2-21-13 A Report from Georgia Tornado Relief Leader
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What a  difference a  week makes!
 
 
GA ACS DR Team getting things organized  
When the tornado hit the Adairsville/Calhoun area January 30, Ga. Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (GA VOAD) began holding teleconferences imediately, attempting to piece together what  was happening: what is the situation on the ground, which agencies are responding with what kind of aid, where are they headquartered, who are the contacts, etc.
 
It looked as though the donations management part of the picture was already in place: There were two churches - a Church of God and a Baptist Church - already receiving goods and distributing them in Adairsville, and another Baptist Church, plus the Sonoraville High School doing the same thing in Gordon County. We went to church Sabbath, secure in the feeling that things were well in hand in both counties. When we returned home, we found a message from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) asking me to call the Gordon County Emergency Management Director about taking over the county donations management. I contacted him and we set  up a meeting with him for Sunday. I later called the GA-Cumberland Conference Warehouse Management Team to be ready to deploy Monday morning.
 
We met with Richard Cooper, Gordon County EMA Director and three of his assistants Sunday and discussed what we were being asked to do, what we needed from the County to do it and where we would be working. We toured the old Big Lots store where they were presently receiving goods, determined that it was sufficient for our needs and returned home to begin planning our response.
 
Monday our team met at the Conference Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) Warehouse and Office in Collegedale, Tenn., and loaded the truck for the trip to Calhoun. We also dispatched the conference Shower Trailer to Adairsville that morning for use at the Adairsville Church of God. That church is serving as a volunteer base for the county, and they needed the Shower Trailer to be able to provide a place for the volunteers to clean up after a day of hard work. David Brooks and Larry Wise took the trailer there and set it up for the people there to use.
 
The Warehouse Team loaded a rental truck with the gear needed to open the warehouse, and left for Calhoun about noon, arriving in Calhoun about an hour later. We were met by 15 firemen who unloaded our things and helped us set up in a basic way. We got our office set up, but had to wait until the next day for the phones and hi-speed internet to be installed, and we could become completely functional.
 
 
  Warehouse at Big Lots store. So many boxes, so little time!
Tuesday was spent in getting things organized in the warehouse itself: the receiving, sorting, inventory storage and shipping areas. Sorting began almost immediately. Our phones and Internet systems were connected, and the office became functional. We were also told by Chief Cooper that they would like us to  take over the distribution part of donations management, as the Baptists had closed their operation and the county was closing the Sonoraville High School distribution operation so that the school could get back to normal. The county wanted to assemble the entire donations program under one roof so survivors didn't have to run all over the county to get help. We agreed to this, and Jerry Fore and I went over to confer with the manager of the Sonoraville facility to discuss a seamless merger of her operation with ours. The rest of the day was spent in fine-tuning our operation. We agreed to begin distribution operations on Thursday.
 
Wednesday was spent in continued sorting and inventorying and in setting up our distribution area. Students from GA-Cumberland Academy came as a part of their Community Service Day and spent the day with us, helping set up tables and stocking them, as well  as helping with the sorting operation. By the end of the day, we were ready to start distribution.
 
Thursday began with a staff meeting to brief our workers as to what the long-term plans were, what was expected of them, and what our goals are. Most of our volunteers are not of our faith, and we wanted to make them feel a part of our team. We even handed out our goldenrod-colored  shirts so they could be identified as a part of our team. 
 
The final elements of the system came together Thursday. I  received visits from four different GEMA officials, all promising any kind of assistance we needed and that they could provide, and  expressinng  relief that the Adventists were there to handle the donations for the county. Most importantly, we finally got a forklift! We no longer have to unload trucks by hand. We also served eight families at the Distribution Center (representing about 45 individuals). Distribution began in earnest on Friday, as Thursday was the last day that the Sonoraville Center was open to the public.Friday they transferred their entire remaining stock to our facility.
 
Cooperation with the County has been all we could ask for - and more. They appreciate us and we are happy to serve this community. Plans are to be open Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p. m. The duration is expected to be around six weeks. However, plans change, and we could close earlier or go on a few days or weeks longer, depending on needs, We would like to train some local people to do this and allow our team to get some rest. I will be speaking with some of our local pastors to see if they might know of some church members who would be interested in this ministry.
 
God has led and is continuing to lead us as we minister to the survivors of this tragedy. We  pray for their relief, and for those who administer that relief in Jesus' name.
 
Terry Haight, Coordinator
GA-Cumberland ACS DR
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464
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