By Valerie Baldowski
As Georgia recovers from recent floods, a number of local churches are pitching in to help.
According to Georgia Emergency Management Agency Public Affairs Officer Dena Brummer, Georgia has received a Federal Disaster Declaration amendment for a number of counties, including Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Stephens and Walker. The designation means that residents in those counties are eligible for special state and federal assistance.
Some local churches have provided as much immediate help as they could, until state and federal assistance arrives. Kellee Williams, senior pastor's assistant at Eagle's Landing Baptist Church in McDonough, said the church is working through the North American Mission Board's Disaster Relief Operation Center to assist flood victims.
Williams extended condolences to the families who suffered property damage and lost loved ones. The congregation, she said, also came into contact with a family whose mother lay dying in a local hospice. While the family was visiting the patient, said Williams, the family was flooded out of their Douglasville home.
"We helped them with temporary housing and food," she said. "A few days later, their mother passed away, and due to their hardship from the flood, they needed help with burial expenses. We are helping the family with their mother's funeral, which is scheduled for Tuesday."
Brad Post, a pastor at Turning Point Church in McDonough, said that on Saturday, 20 people from his church traveled to The Courageous Church in Atlanta to help with donations brought there to assist flood victims. "Courageous Church was a drop-off point," said Post. "We sorted all the clothes."
Additionally, he said, the members of Turning Point Church brought donations to A Gift of Love in Douglasville, a faith-based, non-profit organization, which collects and distributes donations for children. The donations, he said, included clothing, toiletries, toys and household items. "We had about six full cars packed with stuff," he added.
Angela Henderson, director of church administration for Higher Living Christian Church in Hampton, said her church is also helping out. "We're taking monetary donations, as well as nonperishable food items and cleaning products," said Henderson. Items are being collected through Sunday, according to need, she said. They will then be tuned over to the American Red Cross for distribution.
The counties that are now eligible for disaster assistance, according to Gov. Sonny Perdue's office, were included in the original application submitted for aid following the flooding which began Sept. 18. Sheridan Watson, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), said Perdue submitted his application on Sept. 22, and the president issued a major disaster declaration for the state on Sept. 24. Perdue praised the president's quick response to the situation.
"The recovery is just now beginning," Perdue said in a press release. "We have a great deal of work to do, and I appreciate President Obama's approval of the disaster declaration. We will continue to work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as damage assessments continue, and further assistance becomes available."
Chris Schrimpf, press secretary for the governor's office, said Georgia received a visit soon after from Vice President Joe Biden, to survey the aftermath. "The vice president toured the damage [Sept. 25], along with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano," said Schrimpf. "It's certainly very helpful for top, federal officials to survey the damage firsthand as they continue to evaluate more counties that may qualify for federal assistance."
Watson said Isakson and U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), joined Biden in his tours throughout Georgia.
Gov. Perdue has called on the state's residents to do what they can to assist those in need, particularly during what has been dubbed "Hands On Georgia Week," which runs from Sept. 26, through Oct. 3. "As we've watched communities impacted by the storms come together during the past week, we've been reminded that nothing is as powerful as neighbors helping neighbors," he said. "I challenge each Georgian to volunteer for a local community service project with your family, friends or co-workers during Hands On Georgia Week."