Helping Tennesseans Thaw Out

By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

BRENTWOOD — Some things just can’t be sugarcoated — especially disaster relief work in sub-freezing temperatures.

“There’s no glamour in working outside in the cold with snow over your ankles,” acknowledged Mike Overcash, interim Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief director.

Cold weather poses an entirely different set of issues to deal with as compared to traditional disaster responses that take place from the spring through the fall during the hurricane and tornado seasons, he said.

“Typically we have to deal with the heat, not the cold.”

In late February and early March, however, it was the cold (along with a lot of snow and ice) that Tennessee volunteers braved to help hundreds of residents across the state affected by ice and snow storms in late February.

Numerous volunteer teams from churches and associations all across the state rallied to clear trees from roads and homes in Middle and East Tennessee.

In some cases, the work done by the volunteers enabled local electric companies to get into the area so they could restore electricity to the thousands of homes that lost power due to the ice storm.

Because of the number of residents statewide who were affected, cleanup teams stayed busy through the early days of March to minister and meet needs, Overcash said.

Ice is a problem, acknowledged volunteer Dale Ledbetter, director of missions for Maury Baptist Association, based in Columbia. Ledbetter was part of a five-member team that served recently near Clarkrange.

Overcash noted that often volunteers have to knock ice off the limbs before they can be cut with a chain saw.

Ledbetter added that portions of the limbs freeze and stick to the ground making it hard to remove the limbs once they are cut.

But problems in cold weather go far beyond that, volunteers agree.

Jim Ramey, disaster relief director for Sullivan Baptist Association, based in Kingsport, noted that cold weather especially wreaks havoc on shower trailers and laundry units.

Water supply and other lines will freeze if they are outside, Ramey said. “These units need to be in a heated, controlled environment,” he stressed.

The weather is a determining factor in what we can and can’t do in a cold weather response, Ramey continued.

“If we can have a controlled environment, we can take care of anybody, anywhere,” said Ramey, a member of Sullivan Baptist Church in Kingsport.

If teams are not careful in transporting and monitoring where shower and laundry units will be set up, “you can create more problems than you can cure on the field,” Ramey said. Damaged equipment ultimately must be repaired, he added.

Carolyn Watson, a member of Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, and disaster relief director for Cumberland Baptist Association, based in Clarksville, is brutally honest about her assessment of cold weather DR responses.

“The only good thing about cold weather disaster relief is that we are helping people in need,” she said.

“Cold weather response is different because it doesn’t matter how many layers of clothing you wear, you can’t get warm,” Watson continued.

There are dangers to working in cold weather, she observed, from getting cold and wet and not even realizing it to slipping on ice.

But cold weather response is needed because many times people who are without electricity can’t have it repaired until roads are cleared of trees, Watson said. “We can’t say no when it’s too cold because people will die without electricity,” she stressed.

Overcash agreed that cold weather can’t prevent disaster relief volunteers from meeting needs.

“That’s what disaster relief is all about — sharing Christ in crisis,” he said.

He is especially grateful for the numerous volunteers who braved the elements in February and early March to assist fellow Tennesseans in need.

Government officials across the state even took notice.

David Purkey, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, thanked volunteers via an e-mail. “I don’t know what we would have done without you,” he wrote.

Download American Red Cross Disaster Apps

March is American Red Cross Month. Now is a good time to familiarize yourself with some of the disaster preparedness tools the Red Cross offers, including a variety of mobile applications (apps). The free apps provide alerts for weather hazards, first aid, shelter, pet first aid, and more.

As the winter weather hazards come to an end, you can use the weather-related apps to prepare for spring hazards, such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Features of the tornado app include:

  • An audible siren that automatically sounds when the app is closed if a tornado warning is issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
  • A notification when the warning expires; and
  • Instructions on what to do if cell phone towers and other communication are down.
    Features of the hurricane app include:
  • One touch “I’m safe” messaging that users can share with family members via social media outlets;
  • Location-based NOAA weather alerts; and
  • Checklists for creating a family emergency plan.

The Red Cross also offers a mobile application that engages children in disaster preparedness in a fun, exciting way. The “Monster Guard” app uses an interactive game to show kids how to stay safe when responding to emergencies at home.

Take action today! Download these apps to your tablet or smartphone using the Apple App Store or Android Google Play. Doing so counts as one of the ten ways to participate in America’s PrepareAthon!, so be sure to register your actions on the campaign website.

TBC DR Teams Respond to Ice Storm

BRENTWOOD — Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams are responding to damage caused last week by ice storms across the state.

Most of the response work took place in East Tennessee and has occurred at the local level, said Mike Overcash, interim Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief director.

Teams from First Baptist Church, Concord, in Knoxville; Knox County Baptist Association; Nolachucky Baptist Association; Jefferson County Baptist Association; and Big Emory Baptist Association have taken the lead in helping to clear downed trees caused by ice and snow storms, Overcash said.

“The teams in East Tennessee have been working hard,” he added.

The weekend ice storm also created major ice issues in many Middle Tennessee counties.

Overcash said that a team from Hermitage Hills Baptist Church, Hermitage, was scheduled to serve in Putnam County on Feb. 23. Teams from Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, and First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, were set to serve in White County while a combined team from Nolachucky Association and Knox County Association were heading to the Crossville area, he added.

Teams sent out on Monday will work through the end of the week, Overcash said.

Amid reports of outside companies charging for clean up services, Overcash reminded Tennesseans that many volunteer agencies across the state, including Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief, provide such services at no cost.

“We do it because we are trying to share Christ,” Overcash said.

“As we provide services we are not only interested in clearing trees. We also want to get involved in people’s lives as much as they will allow us.”

To report damage or to request volunteers, contact Overcash at (615) 714-9320 or Elizabeth Holmes at (615) 371-7926.

TBC DR Teams Meet Needs in East Tennessee

BRENTWOOD — Tennessee Baptist disaster relief teams are responding to damage caused this week by ice storms across the state.

Most of the response work has taken place in East Tennessee and has occurred at the local level, said Mike Overcash, interim Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief director.

Teams from First Baptist Church, Concord, in Knoxville, Knox County Baptist Association, Nolachucky Baptist Association, Jefferson County Baptist Association, and Big Emory Baptist Association have taken the lead in helping to clear downed trees caused by ice and snow storms, Overcash said.

“The teams in East Tennessee have been working hard,” he added.
As of Feb. 19, Overcash was not aware of teams needed in Middle or West Tennessee, but that could change with another storm system expected over the weekend, he said.

To report damage or a need for volunteers, contact Overcash at (615) 714-9320 or Elizabeth Holmes at (615) 371-7926.

Tennessee Baptist Convention Names Interim Disaster Relief Director

150105-overcashBRENTWOOD, Tenn.— The Tennessee Baptist Convention has named a former employee and veteran of numerous disaster relief efforts to lead the state’s disaster relief initiative on an interim basis.

Mike Overcash began his duties as the TBC’s interim disaster relief director Jan. 5, succeeding David Acres who retired from the position last fall. Overcash was a computer systems specialist with the TBC from 1995-2001. However, he has long been involved in Tennessee disaster relief efforts through Judson Baptist Church where he’s a member. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., Overcash escalated his involvement and became a fulltime disaster relief volunteer, helping in the wake of that incident as well as multiple hurricanes and tornados that wreaked havoc across the Southeastern United States from 2003 to 2005. He has remained an active part of disaster relief efforts since.

“Tennessee disaster relief teams were called on to support the effort following three hurricanes that hit Florida and the eastern coast as well as Katrina in New Orleans,” Overcash said. “It was a very busy time, however Tennessee has always been one of the leading states when it comes to disaster relief involvement. It has been a great opportunity to go and help people who can’t help themselves physically while also having the opportunity to help them spiritually.”

Overcash has served as an emergency services coordinator with TEMA (Tennessee Emergency Management Agency) and has been a liaison with Tennessee VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters). He has also been a trainer for various disaster relief certifications available through TBC disaster relief. According to Gary Rickman, the TBC’s director of strategic relations, the position that oversees the TBC’s disaster relief effort, Overcash will serve as interim until a fulltime replacement is found. Rickman said there is a nationwide search and that he hoped to fill the position in six to nine months.

In the meantime, TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis said Overcash is an “extremely qualified” interim.

“We are blessed to have Mike step into this position and fill the gap for us,” Davis said. “He knows Tennessee and Tennessee Baptists, and is a veteran of our disaster relief efforts in Tennessee and beyond. His experience ensures we’ll maintain a high level of readiness when we’re called on to respond and the many dedicated volunteers we have serving locally with disaster relief teams can be confident in his ability to lead effectively.”

David Acres Retires

David AcresWe will greatly miss David Acres, our former state Disaster Relief director. He officially retired from the Tennessee Baptist Convention yesterday and has become pastor at First Baptist Church, Jamestown, TN. Please remember him and his wife, Paulette, in your prayers as he starts an exciting new ministry.

Flood Recovery in Kingston

We had a flood recovery team from Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Kingston go to the Detroiit, MI area. They worked 4 jobs and completed 3 of the 4 and got about ¾ of the last one done before they had to come home. The big job they worked on led to the salvation of a 20yr old man. It was great.

The team consisted of 5 men and 2 women.