August 31, 2011


Trouble seems to come in bunches. The same storm front that produced the tornadoes in north Georgia and southeast Tennessee also caused tornadoes in northeast Tennessee, in the Greeneville area, later in the day. Damage was extensive, and Greene County needed help managing donations. Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) was asked to assist, but the local Methodist Church began doing the distribution, and area coordinator Bob East decided that rather than try to run competition with them, the Adventists would help them.

However, after several weeks, the Methodists wanted to close the operation down. There was, however, still a need to have a location where the building supplies that were just then beginning to come into the area could be sorted, inventoried, and stored for use by the volunteers who were coming in to help with rebuilding the homes that had been destroyed or damaged. AIDNET, the Long-term Recovery Committee for Greene County decided to ask the Adventists to help.

On Aug. 10, chaplain Jan Lefferts, of Takoma Regional Hospital and Treasurer of AIDNET, called Terry Haight, ACS DR coordinator for the Georgia-Cumberland Conference (GCC), and asked if a set-up team could come for about two weeks and organize things there and train local people to carry on after the team left. Haight agreed, and he and Henry Beaulieu, GCC warehouse specialist, met with the AIDNET people and discussed how the operation would be run. AIDNET agreed to cover the costs of the operation, including travel and housing expenses, and Takoma Hospital provided meals for the team.

Space had already been obtained at a huge warehouse located on Industrial Road. The building had no office space, but Jeff Idell, a Baptist and owner of a local construction company, provided a construction office trailer, the Red Cross provided computers, and AIDNET purchased a copy of Quickbooks and a copy/FAX machine, and we were in business. Joining us as part of the team were John and Elaine Veldhuizen, who served as floor manager and office manager, respectively. Bob East, northeast Tennessee regional coordinator, also joined us and agreed to supply local volunteers and someone to manage the operation after the set-up team left. A crew of eight prisoners assisted in cleaning the area and helped

John sorted and organized the items already in the building. Several truck-loads of donated goods were transferred from the Methodist Distribution Center after it closed—the idea being to have all building supplies under one roof. By Aug. 22, Elaine had a complete report of all the things in the warehouse ready for presentation at the weekly AIDNET meeting!

Finding a local Adventist to manage the warehouse after the set-up team left was proving difficult, but Bob East persisted, and produced Jim Clayburn, a retired teacher and member of the Greenville Adventist Church, who came and looked at the project and agreed to take over the operation after some training and on-the-job experience. Jim ran things until the warehouse finally closed and received special commendation from AIDNET for his service.

Again, ACS DR’s reputation for organization and accountability resulted in being the “ go-to” organization for donations management.

It is interesting that just being trained and experienced isn’t always enough. God always provides opportunities, and often miracles, to help us serve His hurting children. He always provides the people needed to accomplish His will, if we are willing to be a part of His team. Anyone willing to become a worker in this field is invited to join ACS DR.

July 1, 2011


Following the seven tornadoes that struck north Georgia and southeast Tennessee on April 27, 2011, Adventists from the Collegedale/Chattanooga area sprang into action to help. All the area Adventist churches were involved in some type of response. Some fed volunteers and victims, some got their chainsaws and began clearing trees, some picked up debris, etc. Southern Adventist University opened its dorms (following graduation) so victims would have a place to stay, and FEMA used the Hulsey Wellness Center on campus to serve as a place where survivors could come to apply for government assistance.

Adventist Community Services/Disaster Response (ACS/DR) was asked to manage a donated-goods warehouse to serve both Hamilton and Bradley counties. The facility, a 40,000 sq/ft building, was donated by the Whitewing Christian Bookstore, a Church of God facility in Cleveland, Tenn. The building was turned over to ACS/DR on April 28, equipment was set up on April 29, and they began operations on April 30 and stayed operating until June 30.

During that time, the warehouse served 35 different agencies, logging 7,336 hours of volunteer time. Volunteer time is important because the county government uses that time to help defray the amount they have to pay toward a 25/75 percent split of costs of the total response, with the county picking up the 25 percent and FEMA covering 75 percent. With the volunteer hours that ACS/DR turned in, plus what the Southern Baptists reported, the county’s share of the costs was reduced to less than one percent!

Warehouses don’t serve survivors directly, they only serve other agencies that meet the needs of survivors by operating distribution centers. It is called a multi-agency warehouse, because anyone who is serving victims can draw supplies from the warehouse.

Nearly every survivor was served at one time or another by supplies provided through the warehouse. The Apison Adventist Church became a distribution center, serving 50 families (150 individuals) for six weeks. Their 88 volunteers logged 1,679 hours, which also were used by the counties to defray costs.

The Samaritan Center/ACS thrift store operation in Ooltewah, Tenn., was also heavily involved in response, beginning by doing mobile distribution and transitioning to casework, rebuilding support, and other activities, helping the people in the area to recover for several months, until most were back in their homes again. The Center became an important part of the recovery process by being a member of the local Long-term Recovery Committee, working with other private response agencies and county, state and federal governmental agencies to form a cohesive recovery system that made sure all victims had access to recovery donated goods, financial assistance, and volunteer labor.

The Georgia-Cumberland Conference’s shower trailer was used, first to give access to victims and volunteers to hot showers in the disaster area, then was moved between the Apison Methodist Church and the Westview Baptist Church, who were housing volunteers, but didn’t have shower facilities. It was used for several months in that capacity.

Because of the heavy concentration of Adventists in the Collegedale area, Adventist response was heavy. Apison, the area hardest hit, is the next village to Collegedale, and many people were neighbors of Adventists. Several Adventists living in Apison were also victimized by the storms, and all drew closer to their neighbors as a result of these storms.