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Coosa Co. church continues to be resource center after mid-January tornado

WBMA Birmingham 1/25/2023 Erin Wise

Nearly two weeks ago an EF-3 tornado swept through several counties, including Coosa County. Officials estimated 55 homes were damaged, including along Highway 18 near Rehobeth United Methodist Church. 

The church has been a center for volunteers, donations, and hope after the storm. 

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Caption: WBMA

READ MORE: "I'm not living back here; "Coosa Co. residents cleaning up after Thursday's tornado

"This little church hasn't been used for anything like this in probably 50 or more years," said Donna Brown, the command center volunteer coordinator. Brown explained the church provided a central location for people in the community. 

She has coordinated efforts at the church since the day after the storm. She lives in the area and many of her family members were impacted by the storm. 

"I was totally astonished when I topped over the hill from my home and saw all of the devastation of all of our family," said Brown. "[The church] has graciously offered us to have everything located here so that it's so much closer for the families to come here. It means something to them to be here in our community. We were blessed that just a few hundred feet away, the house was destroyed but the church was untouched. We felt like God had his hand on that because he had another plan for it." 

Meeting immediate needs, like ensuring everyone had hot meals while the power was out was the initial goal. In the days after the storm, it evolved into more and more donations being brought to the church for those impacted to use. 

Almost two weeks after the storm, trees remain snapped and uprooted, belongings strewn across yards, and homes beyond repair.

The center remains open. 

"We are past the initial needs, the immediate needs. Now we are more into the clean-up mode. We are still needing a lot of clean-up," said Brown. 

Brooms, shovels, rakes, buckets, and gloves are available at the church.

Volunteers are scheduled to come in to pile limbs and debris. Other volunteers will help collect belongings around the 55 homes impacted by the storm for the people who live in the area to sort through. 

"What they are telling me they need most are totes to collect stuff in. We need buckets for picking up miscellaneous items outside to put them in. We are going to continue with a lot of cleanups," said Brown. 

Showers are offered at the church, along with volunteers to help with laundry. FEMA  is also set up at the church registering people for assistance.

SEE ALSO: FEMA reports nearly 2,500 applicants from state after string of tornadoes

As of Sunday, FEMA reported nearly 2,500 applications submitted for disaster assistance across the state following the Jan. 12 storm. Those who've applied for assistance will receive an eligibility determination letter by mail or email. The letter will explain a person's application status and how to respond. 

FEMA encouraged people to read through the letter carefully. It will include the amount of any assistance from FEMA and information on how to appropriately use the disaster funds. Applicants may also need to submit additional information and supporting documentation. 

Anyone with further questions about assistance can call FEMA's disaster assistance helpline at 800-621-3362. 

"Until they get everything settled, we are going to continue to provide that here until there is not a need," said Brown. "It's just the love and pouring of all of our area, communities, county, and surrounding counties have poured out every day and showed up to volunteer here." 

Donations are accepted by Rehobeth United Methodist Church, Rockford Baptist Church, Equality Methodist Church, and the Equality Fire Department. 

Brown added if any donations aren't ultimately taken by survivors, the items will be given to local food banks. 

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