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Pictured from left are Sharon Coffman, Board of Education member and chair of the Long Term Recovery Committee; Teann Yeager with the Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services; Courtney Layfield with Lake Martin Area United Way; Circuit Judge David Law; and Sheriff Michael Howll. Photo submitted
Pictured from left are Courtney Layfield with Lake Martin Area United Way, Melinda Stallworth with the Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services (GOVS), Al King with GOVS, Teann Yeager with GOVS, Steffany Coker with GOVS, Chris Baker with FEMA, and Sharon Coffman with the Coosa County Long Term Recovery Committee. Photo submitted
Gail Lovelady, along with her husband and son, brought a trailer load of supplies from Church Street Methodist Church in Selma to assist Coosa County’s tornado victims. Photo submitted
Photos by Robert Anderson
By Christa Jennings
The Coosa County Long Term Recovery Committee is continuing its efforts to assist victims of the January 12 tornado in southern Coosa County.
The committee was formed at the request of the Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services, and it is chaired by Sharon Coffman, who is also a resident in the Equality area.
Following the initial cleanup day on January 28, the committee hosted a second volunteer cleanup day on February 18 which proved to be successful with 108 volunteers coming to help cleanup the storm damage. Elected officials who volunteered to help during the cleanup day were Sheriff Michael Howell, Circuit Judge David Law and Coffman, who is District 4 representative on the Board of Education.
Agencies who assisted were FEMA, the Alabama Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services, Sheriff’s Office, Equality Volunteer Fire Department, Elmore County EMA, and Lake Martin Area United Way.
Warren Tidwell with Hometown Organizing Project out of Auburn also came to survey the area and helped that Saturday, as well as making multiple trips to see what assistance is needed and what could be done.
Churches who volunteered or provided assistance were Thelma Baptist Church of Wetumpka, Dawn Ridge Baptist Church in Alexander City, Church Street Methodist Church of Selma, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Coffman said that the Baptist Disaster Recovery Team had also come previously to help.
The Thelma Baptist Church brought a skid steer and chainsaw team, and other individuals also brought their chainsaws to help with the cleanup efforts.
Despite Selma also suffering significant damage from the January tornadoes, Gail Lovelady and her family brought a trailer load of supplies from the Church Street Methodist Church to help Coosa County storm victims. Coffman stated that she was “so humbled” they brought supplies to Coosa.
Areas worked for the February 18 cleanup day included County Road 304, County Road 18, Alabama Highway 9, County Road 76, and Timber Lane.
One small portion of County Road 18 was not worked because of the area being deemed unsafe as a house that had been destroyed was burning, having been set on fire by the homeowner.
Coffman said that while they were grateful for the great turnout of volunteers, by the time they were organized into groups and deployed into the field, they could still only get to so many houses or properties that day.
“When you divide 100 volunteers among 25 or so homes, you only get two to four at each,” she said.
She said that the area is greatly improved, but that they still need more help and that there is still “a lot to do.”
Coffman expressed “a huge thank you” to all of those who helped last month, and she hopes more volunteers will come out for the committee’s next volunteer cleanup day, which is scheduled for tomorrow.
Sack lunches were provided to volunteers for the last cleanup day, and Coffman was pleased to report that Operation BBQ will be providing lunch plates for tomorrow’s volunteers. Volunteers who register in advance can also note if they have dietary restrictions, such as a vegan or vegetarian diet, and lunch options will be available to meet those needs.
Volunteers will still be needed tomorrow to help the tornado survivors with ongoing cleanup, debris removal, tree removal, and repairing or installing roof tarps.
All skill levels are welcome, and volunteers are asked to bring chainsaws, heavy equipment, rakes, and shovels to help move debris to the curbside for pickup. Debris will need to be organized and sorted into various appropriate piles along the roadside for the county to pick up.
Volunteers are advised to wear long work pants, closed-toe shoes and work gloves. Volunteers under the age of 18 will need to come with a parent or guardian.
The volunteer cleanup day will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow, March 4. In case of rain, the backup date for the cleanup day is March 11.
Volunteers are to meet at the Coosa County Volunteer Reception Center, which will be at Rehobeth United Methodist Church, located at 664 County Road 18, Equality.
Those interested in volunteering can call 256-935-9561 or email CoosaLTR@gmail.com to register. Individuals can also text or call the number or send email to that address for more information or for those affected by the tornado to request volunteers at their residence or property to help with various cleanup and recovery needs.
Storm survivors also only have about two weeks left to apply for federal assistance. Those impacted by the January 12 severe storms, straight-line winds and tornadoes have until March 16 to apply for federal assistance.
FEMA may cover rental assistance, temporary housing, home repairs, personal property losses, and other disaster-related needs. Storm survivors wishing to apply for disaster assistance may do so by visiting DiasterAssistance.gov or calling FEMA at 800-621-3362.