Disaster Response: Launching Long Term Recovery Effort Following January Tornadoes



United Methodists gathered in Griffin on March 31 for a celebration and a commitment. It was a day to honor the work of the churches, clergy, ERT (Early Response Teams), and our United Methodist connection in response to the communities struck by a band of tornadoes on January 12, 2023. The day ended with the launch of our long-term recovery effort.

Griffin First UMC's clergy, Rev. John Mattox, Rev. Nelson Furtado, and Rev. Debby Stikes, led a tour of the local damage and of the church's main campus and Hanleiter campus. Thanks to the church’s disaster preparedness and partnerships in community ministries they were quickly ready to serve their community immediately after the tornadoes. 

The January storm was one of the worst in recent history with as many as 10 confirmed tornadoes impacting Troup, Meriwether, Dekalb, Spalding, Warren, Butts, Jasper, and Henry Counties. Approximately 2,500 homes in Spalding County alone were damaged.

The blue dots are United Methodist Churches and the lines represent the path of the January 12 tornadoes

North Georgia United Methodists and UMCOR have been a part of recovery since the day of the storm, now we are launching the next phase in our recovery effort: a two- to three-year long-term community ministry commitment. 

Attending the launch were Bishop Robin Dease; Rev. Susan Gary Landry, South West District Superintendent; Katie Hills Uzoka, interim director of UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response; Pam Garrison, our UMCOR consultant for long-term recovery; Rev. Scott Parrish and Rev. Dr. Thom Shores, co-Conference Disaster Response Coordinators; along with members and clergy of area United Methodist churches that have responded in their communities, Conference and District staff, and Conference leadership. 

"We'll find out how our connection can come alongside disaster survivors and what we might do to help in redemption to what was probably the worst day they've experienced," said Rev. Parrish.

Rev. Nelson Furtado shares about Griffin First UMC's work in the community.

Community engagement is core to the long-term recovery work. Teams will disperse through the affected areas talking with homeowners about their experience, outstanding needs, and how United Methodists might help. Door hangers are printed for families that our teams miss. This first phase of information gathering informs our recovery strategy as we build relationships and partnerships.

"We can't stop doing this work," said Bishop Robin Dease. "I'm proud to be part of this church. We pool our resources, and time and time again, show up."

We will need many volunteers and partner churches from across the North Georgia Conference for this recovery to be successful. For more information or to take part, visit https://www.ngumc.org/longtermrecovery or contact Rev. Scott Parrish at scott.parrish@ngumc.net.

Disaster Response Needs 

  • An additional shower trailer
  • Experienced chainsaw operator (week of April 10) 
  • Experienced volunteer coordinators (virtual & on location)
  • Volunteer outreach screeners (Griffin area)
  • ERT in Troup County as we coordinate related to their 3 disasters
  • Trainable & team-oriented individuals (unbadged) willing to join an existing ERT team to help in the recovery
  • Pray for the many areas that have suffered tremendous destruction and are facing long recoveries