‘There are still good people in this world’
A group of volunteers from the Triad area are back home after spending a week cleaning up remnants of the tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla. in May.
The team, made up of 15 people from five churches in the Archdale-High Point area, agreed to volunteer after the Oklahoma United Methodist Church asked for volunteers to assist with cleanup, demolition and other tasks.
The local volunteers ranged in age from 15 to 79.
“This trip showed that there were more people in need than what you see on the news. When we got there, we found out that there were 3,400 homes destroyed,” said Keith Eddins.
Eddins said that he tried to prepare his team for the devastation that they would see. He had a psychologist come in to talk to them prior to going.
“What we’ve seen and the degree of loss exceeded what we expected,” Eddins said.
The team drove 24 hours, stopping only for food and fuel. They came with $7,000 in Walmart gift cards from the UMC of the Northern Piedmont District and other individuals.
They delivered 55 shovels, 43 rakes, 76 flood buckets and other items, including backpacks filled with stuffed horses and shirts for the children from Victory Junction.
“When we got there, the response was overwhelming,” Eddins said. “They were excited that we traveled so far and greeted us with open arms. They were trying to do all they could do to make it better for us, and at the same time we were trying to do everything in our power to make it better for them.”
The team stayed at Sunny Lane UMC for the week, where they would eat, sleep and relax when not working. Shower time was provided by a nearby YMCA. Their day began at 6:30 a.m. with breakfast, devotion and off to work until late in the afternoon.
“Once you arrived in the affected areas there was nothing but destruction,” Eddins said. “Homes were gone, a school destroyed, debris everywhere and lives lost.”
The team cleaned up rubble, tore down the remains of a home, demolished a barn, cleaned up home sites and helped a family pack up their belongings, while sharing the word of God.
Eddins said that one of the most touching moments for the team was when they found a smartphone under a home that had been destroyed.
“The phone was under rubble and had been rained on for weeks. The phone was cleaned up, charged and a team member was able to get into the contact list,” Eddins said. “Through contacting family members we were able to get the phone back to the owner.”
Eddins said that the owner shared that she and her husband had lost their home and pets. She also shared that she was a new mom and that most of the early pictures of her baby were on the phone, along with photos of her dogs.
“It is hard to put words to those kind of emotions but there were tears in the eyes of my team and tears in the eyes of the family, because of our love of helping someone else and their gratitude,” Eddins said. “Us finding that phone wasn’t by accident. During this trip, we learned that there are still good people in this world on both the giving and receiving side.”
The team is planning to return to Moore in the fall to help with the rebuilding process, barring whether or not they are needed somewhere else.
“If there is a need closer to home, then we will stay here in this area. There is going to be a long recovery effort to help bring those people back to a norm,” Eddins said. “Our people are trained to rebuild. In the fall, that would be the process we would take part in.”
For more information about the Northern Piedmont District of the United Methodist Church Disaster Response Team, call the Northern Piedmont District UMC at 336- 274-2154 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NorthernPiedmontUmcDistrictDisasterResponseTeam.
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