March 24, 2014


One of the Jaycee Towers in downtown Chattanooga had a fire Monday, March 17, and about 200 people had to be evacuated until 4:00 pm Wednesday.

John Hitchens from the Red Cross called me at 11:45 Tuesday morning and asked me to chair a meeting of the Southeast Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) at 1:00—only an hour and 15 minutes from then! I hadn't even known about the fire until then, so people would have to listen to me pontificate about something I knew absolutely nothing about. I did hold the meeting—we actually had about 15 people show up on that short a notice!—and I had briefings from several of the agencies already involved, then discussed what the rest of us could do to assist. The Health Department agreed to send an inspector to check everyones' refrigerators to see if anything was spoiled. I told them I would find some clean-up kits so people could clean out their refrigerators. The Food Bank was going to send a week's worth of food to replace what had spoiled, etc. These people are low-income folks who are living on Social Security, food stamps, etc, and didn't have enough money to buy replacement food.

I thought we had a supply of clean-up kits left over from Calhoun last year, forgetting that we had given those to South Pittsburg for their mud slide cleanup. So I began frantically searching for clean-up kits from other agencies and soon found out no one else had any either. I did notice that I had a supply of empty 5-gallon buckets left over from some other disaster, some dust masks and some latex gloves, so I called the Food Bank to see if they had some things we could add and they agreed to help. I collected Rhonda, and we took our supplies over to the Food Bank, where they added cleaners, sponges, paper towels and a few other things. We then hauled everything over to the Jaycee Tower that was affected and handed them out to people as the buses brought them back from the shelter. The folks were thrilled. One elderly lady, when told that we were from Adventist Disaster Response (Melissa Blevins from the Food Bank was very generous about telling everyone that ACS DR supplied the clean-up goods), was excited and told us she used to come to Collegedale weekly and shop at the Village Market for her children, who all had allergies. She said the Village Market was the only place she could get the kind of food they could safely eat. The Salvation Army supplied several young ladies to help the residents carry their supplies up to their rooms. VOAD does work!

March 25, 2013


Greetings all:

Just wanted to pass on some statistics from the Gordon County Multi-agency Warehouse and Distribution Center operation we just completed.

Time Open to the Public: 6 weeks (Feb. 4-March 15)

Families Served: 132

Individuals Served: 473

Value of Donations Processed: $298,511.04

Number of Volunteers: 246

Volunteer Hours Worked: 2877.25

Organizations Receiving Leftover Goods at Close-Down: 25

Items Donated to Victims: 14,294

This has been another good operation. Cooperation with state and county officials has been cordial, most of the people needing assistance were served, and many county feeding centers, clothing centers, pregnancy clinics, womens' shelters, and other agencies were given items from the warehouse at shut-down. The Calhoun and Adairsville Seventh-day Adventist churches received many iems to shore up their ACS programs.

Our team was—again—superb. John Veldhuizen was our warehouse manager and worked tirelessly to make sure things ran seamlessly. Elaine, his wife, kept all of our statistics, sometimes working late into the evening to keep the information up-to-date. Irene Wilkinson, sorting manager, kept busy overseeing the volunteers in the sorting department and making sure things were sorted and inventoried properly. Gary Cross, assistant manager, stayed busy moving inventory, re-supplying the distribution operation, and covering for John when he had to be out of the building. When we were asked to take over the distribution operations, Rhonda Haight, the only one who had previous distribution experience, stepped in, set the operation up, and trained and oversaw the staff who worked there. Henry Beaulieu, our warehouse specialist, was there to provide the benefit of his experience to help John when something of critical import came up from time-to-time.

While the management team functioned well, it always depends on the rank-and-file volunteers who respond to actually make it all work. Most often, these are local people who walk in and offer to help, and this time was no different. At the beginning of an operation, there are many volunteers, but as the pace of activity slows down, these dwindle, until there is usually a core group of volunteers that tends to stay for the duration. That happened again this time. God always seems to pick out exactly the people we need. I can't stress enough the part the Holy Spirit plays in these operations, and He again provided us with exactly the people we needed. While we on the team have the training, experience, skills, and willingness to serve, we never know who God will send to work with us, and He picks the right ones every time—without exception. Out of all the volunteers we had who worked with us throughout the whole operation, only one was an Adventist—the rest were from a variety of different denominations. All considered themselves part of ACS DR and wore the shirts proudly.

Also, our shower trailer was used constantly at the Adairsville Church of God, providing the clean-up, debris-removal, and rebuilding crews who were being housed there with a place to shower and get cleaned-up after a long day of hard physical work. Pastor Coomer, the CoG pastor, couldn't thank us enough for providing that service for them.

So between the services provided by the Calhoun Seventh-day Adventist Church (which were significant), the Georgia-Cumberland Academy students, the Gordon County Multi-agency Warehouse and Distribution Center, and the Georgia-Cumberland shower trailer, Adventists have made a rather high-profile impact on both Gordon County and Bartow County. Most importantly, they have had a direct impact in relieving the suffering of the majority of the people affected by the tornados, bringing the spirit of Jesus to those who were impacted.

We are all grateful to God for giving us a chance to be of assistance to our neighbors in Gordon and Bartow counties and for providing us with the strength and wisdom to do so in a manner that would bring glory to Him.