Local group lends a hand for disaster relief in Amory

Published 12:48 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

A group of students and adults from First United Methodist Church in Clanton traveled to Amory, Mississippi at the end of March to assist in disaster relief efforts after a tornado came through.

Recently, several who went on the trip reflected on their experience.

FUMC Youth Pastor Ian Velasquez contacted his friend who is a worship pastor in Amory to make sure he was safe after the storm.

“I felt personally lead to go and help out,” Velasquez said.

The Friday that Velasquez was planning on going was part of spring break for Chilton County Schools, so he decided to open the opportunity to the students. The team was there for a Friday and Saturday.

“I really felt like God was calling me to go down there and help out,” Malley Cox said. “… I’m a people person, and I love to help out, but I really felt the need to go down and help people … because what better way to spread God’s glory than to help people that are in need.”

FUMC church members also donated items that those in Amory had said were needed.

“The biggest things they were asking for were water, tarps, toilet paper, plastic bags, stuff like that,” Velasquez said. “The church really showed up and donated a ton of stuff.”

While in Amory, the group served with Forward Church. Velasquez said the area that got hit the hardest was a low-income area.

The damage became real to them as they pulled into town.

“You could have heard a pin drop” in the van, Velasquez said.

There was one house in particular that stood out for Cox because it really demonstrated the devastation. A glass door was shattered, and the roof was caved in. One of the group leaders, Paul Hammock, prayed with the property owner, “and it really just hit me how much … their lives are just destroyed,” Cox said.

Cox said she helped distribute food and essentials to those in need.

Stephen Mahan helped remove debris from people’s yards and hand out water with Andrew Robinson.

“Some of the damage that was down there, I knew it was a lot, but it was a little more than I expected,” Mahan said.

Ada Willis said she had volunteered in the past and wanted to be able to help others again through the trip to Amory. Willis and her mom April volunteered in the distribution area.

There was also a group from Church of the Highlands volunteering at Forward at the same time, and Willis said she enjoyed getting to know them. Velasquez said the highlands group had specialized volunteers, such as heavy equipment operators.

The Clanton team would then go in and pick up the smaller debris.

Before heading home, the group attended a service at Forward Church.

“You could tell in that room that the people there were hurting,” Velasquez said. “We were there worshiping and you could tell they were really having to depend on God because that is all they could do.”