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Salvation Army canteens reaching areas under served following Hattiesburg tornado

Melissa and Mike Bagett

(Lamar County, MS) Looking around you wonder how anything is left standing. Very few trees are upright, and even fewer homes on a stretch of Sullivan-Kilrain Road in Lamar County, Mississippi just outside of Hattiesburg. Most of what was here is now scattered across several stretches of property. Residents were told this is where Saturday morning’s tornado touched down and began its path of destruction for fifteen more miles.

Melissa Bagett is looking for the hidden treasures of family pictures she might find through the piles of debris left behind. Melissa and her husband Mike were here when the tornado touch down just outside their home.

“I heard it come over the trees,” said Mike Bagett. “When they say get in the bath tub, get in the bath tub. It was over in five seconds but it left this.”

A portion of their roof was ripped off by the storm and vehicles were pushed several feet by the strong winds. Homes up and down this road experienced the same, but all walked away. Now they must rebuild or move like the Bagetts are doing. The Salvation Army was the first service organization to stop by and offer help in the form of meals and a friendly face.

“It means the world,” said Melissa Bagett. “We all are having to do a lot of work out here and don’t have time to eat. It’s appreciated.”

“It helps. It tells me the community understands you need sustenance after something like this,” said Mike Bagett.

Mike is right when he says community. These are local Salvation Army disaster volunteers from the Hattiesburg Corps dropping off several containers of food.

Hattiesburg Corps officers, Captains Patrick and Stacey Connelly have turned their attention to healing those devastated by the storms despite having lost the use of most of their facilities themselves.

“We are still in a state of shock, but we had to make sure we took care of the community that supports us,” said Captain Patrick Connelly.

Right now, the estimate to getting back in these buildings is six to nine months. For now, a portable office is already set up on the campus.

“We knew immediately we needed a game plan to run out social services, our Boys’ and Girls’ Club and to meet needs,” said Captain Stacey Connelly.

How People Can Help
The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation to the charity of your choice. Monetary contributions also support local economies and ensure that businesses can operate when relief supplies diminish.

Officers their attention on healing community, not destruction

In the minutes and hours that followed the Saturday morning tornado that ripped through Hattiesburg, Mississippi and The Salvation Army Corps, the Corps Officers couldn’t help but wonder what will the future bring…what next?

But the feeling wasn’t for themselves or even their Corps’ buildings which suffered extensive damage, it was for the community and those they help through the programs offered here.

“We had to make sure we took care of the community that supports us, because the damage through this area is wide ranging. It was just right here,” said Captain Patrick Connelly, Hattiesburg Corps Officer.

“We knew immediately we needed a game plan to run our social services our Boys and Girls Club and to meet needs,” said Captain Stacey Connelly, Hattiesburg Corps Officer.

Captain Ronnette Smith says helping others is just what Salvation Army officers do.

“That’s just who we are, who God made us to be. The “SS” on our uniforms stand for “saved to serve”,” said Captain Smith.

Captain Smith lived on campus until December. She hadn’t finished her move completely. Her on campus apartment was flooded when the storm ripped off the roof and burst a water pipe.

“I can’t describe it, it’s a surreal feeling. You know what it’s suppose to look like but it doesn’t anymore,” said Captain Smith.

Work continues on the facilities the day after the storm and progress has been made to make sure the roofs to every building are covered and won’t let more water in. It will be several more months, however until they will be usable.

“They are telling us six to nine months until we can move back in. A portable office has already arrived, so that will be where we work for now,” said Captain Stacey Connelly.

The officers here continue to get support from their fellow Salvation Army officers across the country whether it be by phone, text or social media, but it was one visit that meant the most. Majors Roy and Jackie Johnson arrived at the Corps just hours after the tornado Saturday. Captain Patrick has known Major Roy Johnson since he was five years old. The Major’s hug brought tears.

“It was just a sense of relief, just to know we were not alone.”

How People Can Help
The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation to the charity of your choice. Monetary contributions also support local economies and ensure that businesses can operate when relief supplies diminish.

Feeding increases as clean up continues in Hattiesburg area

The Salvation Army now has four mobile feeding units covering the areas affected by the early morning tornado that left a path of destruction in and around Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Along the path of Saturday’s storms, roads are still blocked as power crews work to restore electricity to homes.

Salvation Army canteens set up so residents wouldn’t have to walk or drive too far for a hot meal or something to drink.

“I heard glass breaking and something hitting the house,” said Hattiesburg resident, George Dixon.

Dixon walked over for something to eat. He also was prayed for before he left.

“Seeing this truck makes you feel like someone cares about you,” said Dixon.

Veronica Williams drove up to The Salvation Army canteen knowing she could get a hot meal for her family.

“You always show up when people are in need,” said Williams. “You see that red and white, you are about to get help.”

Help comes in many forms. Michelle Overby and Jordyn Lester lived through Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Now living in Hattiesburg, they saw people in need and wanted to help.

“We drove down this street and saw how the people looked, that was how we looked after Katrina, so we had to help,” said Overby.

Michelle and Jordyn made sandwiches, chips bags, snacks and bought water to hand out, but with the road blocked they couldn’t deliver the food to a local church. That’s when they saw The Salvation Army canteen.

“The Salvation Army helped us and we wanted to do that here,” said Lester.

Michelle and Jordyn asked if they could pass out their food next to the canteen, and our disaster workers even let them use one of our tables.

The Salvation Army prepared and delivered meals, served drinks and snacks, and prayed with folks from the community.

With two mobile feeding units on standby ready to help if needed, disaster personnel with assess the need in the area and work with local and state emergency management agencies to provide for those in need.

How People Can Help
The best way to help after a disaster is to make a financial donation to the charity of your choice. Monetary contributions also support local economies and ensure that businesses can operate when relief supplies diminish.

Corps Buildings Damaged in Hattiesburg as Division Prepares for More Storms


January 21, 2017
Jon Kalahar | jon.kalahar@uss.salvationarmy.org | (601) 941-7779

Hattiesburg, MS — A tornado cut a destructive path across part of Forrest County, Mississippi early Saturday morning. Nothing in its path was spared, including The Salvation Army, Hattiesburg Corps. Fifteen clients were staying in the emergency shelter when the storm struck.

“You look around this campus at what buildings received the most damage. It’s a mess, but the shelter was mostly spared,” said Captain Patrick Connelly, Hattiesburg Corps Officer.

The Hattiesburg Salvation Army’s campus includes the church, administrative offices, and the Boys and Girls Club including a gym. All had roof damage and water throughout.

“These are just buildings. These are just things. They are not all the Army is. We will continue to do what we do and that is help this community recover,” said Captain Connelly.

The Jackson, Mississippi Corps arrived just in time Saturday with two mobile feeding units to help prepare meals for the local shelter housing 50 residents from the area and ten staff members.

Emergency Disaster Services Director for the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division, Terry Lightheart has stationed three more mobile feeding units on standby. More severe weather is expected tonight.

“Once again the entire Division is on alert as we watch severe weather move across the Southeast, so we want to protect our workers and keep them out of harm’s way. We will know better Sunday exactly how many vehicles and personnel we need to move into action,” said Lightheart.

To help us provide for those in need from Saturday’s storms you can donate through this link: give.salvationarmyusa.org/January_tornado_outbreak 

The Salvation Army Activates Three More Local Corps To Help Meet The Needs Of Flood Survivors In MS And LA

March 12, 2016 – 7:13 PM EST
Jon Kalahar
jon.kalahar@uss.salvationarmy.org
(601) 941-7779


serving flood survivorsJACKSON, MS (March 12, 2016) –The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi has increased the number of Salvation Army Corps serving in areas affected by flooding from five to eight because of local needs to the rising flood waters.
Two Corps located in Mississippi and one in New Orleans mobilized today to support disaster response and relief efforts in Hattiesburg (MS), Tangipahoa Parish (LA), and St. Tammany Parish (LA). The Corps are based out of McComb and Hattiesburg, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana.

The McComb (MS) Corps has served 315 snacks and 200 drinks at a shelter located at Eagle Crest Church in the town of Ticfaw, La. (Tangipahoa Parish). “Although we are based in Mississippi the parish is in our service area.” said Captain Andy Bailey, McComb Corps officer. “We are pleased with the partnership that exists in this community allowing the opportunity to provide disaster relief to citizens now and in the future.”

Relief efforts continue to be provided by the Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport and Monroe Corps in devastated areas of Louisiana. Staff and volunteers are serving meals and drinks to those who are displaced from flood waters and first responders helping keep the public safe.

The Monroe Salvation Army served 300 meals so far Saturday not to mention drinks and clean up kits, plus provided emotional and spiritual care to those who requested it.

In Shreveport, The Salvation Army opened a donation center at 200 East Stoner to accept monetary donations, but also donations of socks, cleaning supplies, diapers, packaged snacks, Gatorade, blankets, linens, and towels.

“Monetary donations are always eagerly accepted, especially in emergency situations,” said Major Ed Binnix, Shreveport Corps Commander, “The monetary donations allow us to stimulate the local economy which has been impacted by the disaster and enable us to purchase what we need when we need it.”

In Mississippi, the Greenville Corps continues to provide meals and hydration to a shelter located at the Washington County Convention Center. The Jackson MS Corps  continues to provide four volunteers, and two mobile canteens to support disaster relief efforts in Monroe, Louisiana.

The Salvation Army in several other locations is also on standby due to National Weather Service concern with current river stages and the affect the flooding could have in the future.

“We are ready to respond should flooding expand to other areas,” said Terry Lightheart, Emergency/Disaster Services Director, The Salvation Army of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi. “This is a threat that could last for several more days.”

The Salvation Army asks people who want to help those affected by these storms to please give monetarily through this link: http://give.salvationarmyusa.org/march2016floods

Salvation Army disaster services are free. All people are served equally, without discrimination.

About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar The Salvation Army spends is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. For more information, go to www.salvationarmyalm.org.