Volunteers plentiful and needed as Selma continues to dig out from Thursday’s tornado

Published 6:30 pm Friday, January 20, 2023

By Travis Gupton 

The Selma Times-Journal 

Residents of the city of Selma have stepped up in droves since last Thursday’s devastating tornado to help those who have needed it the most. Individuals and groups from all over the state and the south have traveled to the Queen City of the Blackbelt to help Selma and its her people begin the arduous and difficult task of picking up the pieces, literally, and trying to get help get the lives of the people who live her back to normal. 

One such group is the Church Street United Methodist Church in Selma, where Reverend Diane Everette and her congregation have been giving out food and providing showers to those who need help since last Thursday’s storm. 

“We were here bright and early Friday morning,” Everette said. “We had the church doors open. Our disaster response team for the Alabama-West Florida Conference was here and we rode out and we did assessments. In the meantime, our church as volunteers has been feeding and cooking meals, sending those out to workers. It’s been an entire community effort that’s been wonderful. We are housing work teams and we are just trying to be the hands and feet of Christ.” 

On the west side of Selma, Houston Park Church of Christ has been handing out food and supplies to those who affected, too. The church has been receiving offers to help from other Churches of Christ from far and wide since the tornado hit. 

“As far as the Church of Christ at Houston Park is concerned, we have been contacted by 40 churches or individuals of the Churches of Christ,” Houston Park Church of Christ Minister Van Sprague said. “They have been great at volunteering, offering things, people, goods and money as we need. We’ve received about a half a dozen shipments of things from them already and we are receiving funds for further assistance.” 

Churchgoers have been coming down from other areas to assistance the church with making and handing out food so more people can go out into the community and help with the removal of storm debris or giving out food. 

“The brethren from Columbia [Tennessee] are running a food truck for us and that enables us to be able to put more of our workers out on the streets to give out food,” Sprague said. “They will be giving us that relief through Friday, three meals a day, then after that we’ll be deciding what our meal schedule looks like.” 

Just north of Selma, Valley Grande Baptist Church is housing a group called “Eight Days of Hope.” Eight Days of Hope is based out of Tupelo, Mississippi and have traveled all over the country to help communities recover from natural disasters. When they arrived to Selma they did not waste any time getting to work. 

“The first thing that we do when we got down here we send a team of assessors out. They are going out to different homes assessing homes and writing up different tickets for work orders,” said Eight Days of Hope Full Time Missionary Tina Haley. “Tomorrow is our first full day of work. This is a rapid-response event. We do tree work. We do roof tarps, yard cleanups, debris cleanups that kind of stuff. But, the first thing we did when we got here was the assessing.” 

Eight Days of Hope and other groups like it play such a vital part in Selma’s rebuilding process. 

“It’s very important,” Haley said. “Some of these families are not able to get out there and do this work. Sometimes they don’t have the insurance that will help. All of our services are free. We do not charge for anything. People tell us, without volunteer groups like us coming in, the work may not get done.”