Helping residents affected by June flood
The Bolivar County Long Term Disaster Recovery Committee announced that residents who were affected by the flood on June 8 received a gift in the form of materials and building supplies to rebuild their homes following the devastating flood which pounded the county with up to 14 inches of rain for several days straight. As an added bonus, Merge volunteers from as far away as Mexico, Oregon, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota and California, met in Bolivar County to assist the affected homeowners. Dale Lusk, who is the International Director of Global Engagements for the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC), held an in-person meeting with former mayor of Mound Bayou, MS, Darryl Johnson and Bolivar County Long Term Disaster Recovery Committee Chairman, DeVoyce C. Morris in November. In early July, Lusk had sent out an urgent request to the ECC denomination asking for help in Bolivar County, where they would muck out and gut homes that were declared as having sustained major damage. According to Emergency Management Agency Director, Michael Lamb, only 19 homes in Bolivar County were considered to have major damage.
“At least 50 homes have to sustain major damage to receive a federal declaration,” said Lamb. “According to federal guidelines, a house has to sustain at least 18 inches of water to be declared major damaged.”
According to Johnson, some families were sleeping in the Walk of Faith Church where he is the pastor.
“Others sought refuge with family and friends and in hotels, if they could afford it, and there are some residents who will never be able to live in their homes again,” said Johnson.
“My husband, Rogers, got a call from friends living in the outskirts of Mound Bayou who had no way of getting out to purchase food and water. He filled their list and shopped for them, however to deliver their items to them he had to use one of his largest tractors to get through the water,” said Morris. “It was frightening, as water was almost up to the cab of the tractor,” she said.
In 2018, the state Legislature approved a program called Disaster Assistance Repair Program (DARP), which sends up to $250,000 to a county should it not qualify for federal aid. Bolivar County Long Term Disaster Recovery Committee was able to secure the $250,000 grant which was requested by the Emergency Management Agency under the directive of the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors.
“Because the area was not a declared disaster area, these funds are restricted to purchasing materials and supplies only and distributed in $50,000 increments. This is why we are so fortunate to have the Merge volunteers come into the area and provide much needed construction work,” said Morris.
Morris and the recovery committee held town hall meetings in Mound Bayou, Shelby and Rosedale where they met with the residents and informed them that help was on the way but to be patient, because the process was not an overnight task. First, case managers had to interview and conduct assessments of the damages, then licensed, bonded contractors were required to do estimates and to write up lists of materials needed.
“Recovery committee member, Dr. Lee Peltan, was a great asset in forging relations and setting up accounts with local lumber companies and paint companies so that the homeowners only needed to go in and pick out their materials and supplies,” said Morris.
Seeing the plight of the affected residents, Lusk has again sent out the clarion call and arranged for ECC volunteers from Mexico and across the United States to arrive in Bolivar County on January 28. They will continue working on houses that they were unable to finish, as well as new ones on the list.
“Some of the houses were so severely damaged that the volunteers spent much of their time working on them so that the residents could move back in before the bad weather set in,” said Johnson.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they have the heart,” said Elizabeth Andrews.
Andrews quote was not only demonstrated by the Merge volunteers, but by churches and organizations in Mound Bayou.
“After a hard day’s labor, we thought the most benevolent act that could be done was to offer the volunteers a hot, Southern, delicious meal,” said Sandra Byars, the secretary for the recovery committee. “We enlisted the services of area churches and organizations to prepare meals and to have them ready to serve at 6:30 each evening. No one can ever imagine the love and fellowship that took place around the dinner table.”
“Some of the Delta’s best cooks prepared some of the best meals imaginable,” said Geraldine Grammer, the vice-chairman of the BCLTRC. “We felt the love and deeply regretted when the volunteers had to return home. You can’t love without serving and you can’t serve without loving.”
“We are deeply indebted to Pastor Brad Corban and the St. Luke United Methodist Church family and Pastor Johnson and the Walk of Faith Covenant Church family for providing the volunteers with a place to live while they were here. It makes my heart smile when I see neighbors helping neighbors, and this is exactly what happened here,” she said. “We also appreciate the outpouring of food, love and fellowship exemplified by Pastor Earl V. Hall and the First Baptist Church family, Pastor Horace McKay and the Greater Bethel AME Church family, Pastor Samuel Evans and the Pleasant Green MB Church and Elder Kenyun Johnson and the First Christian Church family. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Chi Mu Omega Chapter members also assisted with meals for the volunteers.”
“We are so appreciative of the support from Denise Gray-Hunt, Director of Individual Assistance with MEMA and Carlos Martinez, Jr., the Individual Assistance Specialist,” said Morris. “They saw the collaborative efforts of this community, coupled with the Merge volunteers’ services, and sent a team from their Public Relations Office to interview volunteers and homeowners.”
The video can be viewed on Youtube.com, Bolivar County Rebuilds After the June 2021 Flash Flood.
The Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) is a multiethnic denomination in the United States and Canada with ministries on five continents of the world. Founded in 1885 by Swedish immigrants, the ECC values the Bible as the word of God, the gift of God’s grace and ever-deepening spiritual life that comes through a faith with Jesus Christ, the importance of extending God’s love and compassion to a hurting world, and the strength that comes from unity within diversity.
Organized in 2012, by interim pastor Walt Griffith of First Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, the BCLTDRC’s purpose is to meet and work together to address the unmet needs of residents of Bolivar County, in response to county, state, or federally declared disasters, particularly those whose needs are not met by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies. According to Morris, the group is committed to providing spiritual, emotional and physical resources to those affected by disasters.
“Our mission is to provide ongoing preparedness within this community for relief in disaster contingencies and to provide simplified access to services for affected residents regardless of ethnicity, religious preference, gender or disability,” said Morris. “We are especially committed to those individuals who are most vulnerable to having their needs overlooked in the recovery process,” she said. Morris stated that this committee collaborates with other organizations, coordinates management, resources, and volunteers for the long-term process. The BCLTDRC is a 501(c) 3 organization and gladly accepts tax-deductible donations for the ongoing support of the committee’s efforts. The committee is strictly volunteer, and no members are compensated for their time.”
Morris may be contacted at 662.719.0090 for additional information.