Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Brethren focus work north of Greensburg, following tornado.

In Greensburg, Kan., a tornado completely leveled 90 percent of town on May 4, during a night in which at least six tornados were in the area, and more the next night. "While Greensburg is the focus of the national media, the destruction reaches northeast into the heart of Kansas farmland," reported Roy Winter, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries (formerly called the Emergency Response program) for the Church of the Brethren General Board.

Roy Winter visited the area last week to help assess the need for a Brethren response. "In Stafford County, the Eden Valley Church of the Brethren sits untouched, but at least five Brethren families experienced damage to their homes, garages, or barns," he said.

Eden Valley pastor Tim Morris has been providing pastoral support to some families who survived the disaster, such as a family whose farm north of Greensburg lost all nine buildings. The loss included the house and some live stock. "Even the floor of the house was ripped away," Roy Winter said.

Pastor Morris is helping coordinate relief efforts in this rural area, with support from Western Plains District. Bill Winter is acting district disaster coordinator for Western Plains, and is taking part in the meetings of agencies involved in the relief effort.

The district is planning to focus response in the area north of Greensburg. "Right now Greensburg is very much in the news eye, and they’re getting a lot of help," said Bill Winter. "So what we’ve decided to do is focus on the area north of Greensburg where the tornados went after hitting the town." Last week he and a small group of Brethren went out to help clean up felled trees and remove debris in the area north of Greensburg.

A "walk the fields" event is scheduled for Sunday, May 27, by the district. Western Plains has issued a general call for volunteers to help farmers pick up debris from fields on that afternoon. The call went out to the Brethren congregations located in the western part of Kansas. Volunteers will meet at Eden Valley Church of the Brethren at 2 p.m., and the church will provide a light meal. "Anyone from child up to older adult who can bend over and pick up stuff is welcome!" Bill Winter said.

"The process is ongoing," he added. Future work may include rebuilding of homes and garages and other buildings damaged by the storms, he said.

Children’s Disaster Services (formerly Disaster Child Care) also has responded quickly to the Greensburg tornado by sending seven volunteers to help care for children of affected families. Volunteers worked in the Red Cross services center in Haviland, just west of Greensburg, through May 16. The program is currently working to create a longterm child care presence in Greensburg for families as they do clean up and rebuilding.

In other disaster response news, the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project in Lucedale, Miss., is scheduled to close at the end of June, and the McComb, Miss., project will close Aug. 4. Both projects were in response to Hurricane Katrina. Projects in Pearl River and Chalmette, La., will remain active.

Source: 5/23/2007 Newsline

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