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By V. Michelle Bernard/Visitor
The state of West Virginia has asked the Seventh-day Adventist Church to help oversee the distribution of aid to those affected by devastating floods this past week that killed at least 23 people and left thousands homeless.
|Delivery of supplies begins in West Virginia, to serve those who have suffered loss during recent floods across the state.
Photo supplied by the Columbia Union Visitor
As many as 60 roads are closed due to flooding and flood damage. More than 1,200 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared state of emergencies in 44 counties, and President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration for the state. Dozens of people have had to be rescued, and search and rescue missions continue as of June 29.
The flooding occurred about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Beckley, West Virginia, where Adventists from around the country will converge to offer free medical care to community members during a Your Best Pathway to Health event scheduled for July 13-16.
“The area was in dire need prior to the event. This storm compounds that,” said Minnie McNeil, ACS/ACS Disaster Relief director for Allegheny East Conference and the Columbia Union Conference, who spearheaded the procurement of a management team to operate a warehouse at state officials' request in Belle, just south of the state capital, Charleston.
Larry Murphy, director of ACS for the Mountain View Conference, appealed for volunteers. “If you have ACS training and can spend some time in the Charleston area, call my cell,” Murphy said as he gave his mobile phone number.
State officials have asked the church to both operate the warehouse and to process donations in Belle, said Frank Bondurant, vice president for ministries development at the church’s Columbia Union. The church also has been asked to lead out in crisis counseling and to minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of survivors.
“Your church is on the scene and actively engaged in the relief effort,” Bondurant said.
On June 24, 2016, NAD reached out to McNeil and Murphy to ascertain what the conditions and resources were on the ground in West Virginia. Murphy informed NAD ACS Disaster Response director W. Derrick Lea that even as the water was still rising, the West Virginia VOAD (National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) had already conducted a conference call to mobilize efforts.
State officials asked ACS to manage a warehouse for distribution of donated goods. “After discussing expense coverage and related issues with ACS personnel a plan of action was developed," said Lea. “The biggest challenge for ACS was educating the state and VOAD as to the needs we would have for a warehouse. Eventually, a facility that met the requirements was identified with the state representatives.” The ACS-managed warehouse is located in Belle.
Lea reports that while the details on the warehouse were being worked out, ACS was able to focus labor on other needs in the affected area. They received calls from the badly damaged town of Rainelle. By June 29, the residents had received very little help and, in addition to experiencing deaths, said Lea, the population has a high number of senior citizens who had little ability to help themselves. Efforts are now underway to help Rainelle.
“I want to thank everyone who has been praying for our neighbors in southern West Virginia,” Murphy said. “Storms have created new flooding and new victims suffering loss. Please keep this dangerous situation before the Lord in prayer.”
Monetary donations, marked “WV Flood Relief,” can be sent to the Mountain View Conference at 1400 Liberty Street, Parkersburg, West Virginia 26101.
Adventist ACS volunteers have offered assistance after several disasters. Earlier this month, the government of the Canadian province of Alberta put the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in charge of distributing aid to people affected by a wildfire that forced the evacuation of the city of Fort McMurray. More recently, ACS volunteers are working with several groups in Orlando, Florida, after the June 5 Pulse club mass shooting that killed 49 and wounded 53.
— V. Michelle Bernard is the assistant editor for the Columbia Union Visitor; W. Derrick Lea, associate director of ACS for the North American Division and NAD ACS Disaster Response director, contributed to this report. Click here for more coverage.