On Monday, the volunteer organization presented the keys to its final recipient, signaling the completion of their largest project to date — a two-bedroom, 870-square-foot residence on Martin Luther King Drive.
“We’re incredibly excited [to see this come to a close],” said David Franklin, associational missionary for the Bartow Baptist Association. “The last place, Jackie McConnell’s house, that was the biggest one. We [completed] the easiest ones first, which [for example, were homes where] a part of a roof was blown off or they needed shingles.
“... This last one — [the resident] was born and raised in that house,” he said, adding the initial home was completely destroyed by the tornado. “... I think for the whole team, [there was] a lot of emotion. What a blessing it is to be able to help somebody else out. [There was] lots of emotion, because we’re finished, but lots of emotion when you see somebody who is truly in need and you’re able to help.”
In Bartow, the Jan. 30 twister killed one person, damaging more than 400 residential structures and about 30 commercial properties. The height of the destruction occurred around the intersection of U.S. Highway 41 and Ga. Highway 140.
Sanctioned by the local government, Bartow Christian Disaster Recovery — consisting of churches throughout Bartow County — raised funds and organized volunteers to assist in relief efforts. Overall, the disaster response team repaired or rebuilt 30 homes, demolished 22 structures and more than 6,000 volunteers contributed over 55,000 man hours. While the majority of helpers live in Georgia, the storm efforts have drawn people throughout the country, with some traveling from Texas and Michigan.
“What a blessing it is to see the goodness of people’s hearts that want to help other people out,” Franklin said. “They’ve come from across various denominations. They’ve come from across different states. People have given their time and energy to come, and you have to be humbled and thankful for so many people who are willing to help out — that’s both local and across the state. They’ve come from everywhere.
“The other thing that, I think, has been really, really good [is] to see local community leaders and various people from government officials to [church members] to [representatives of the business community] all working together. When people work together it just builds relationships. ... [We also] found out because of what has happened in Adairsville, the Georgia Emergency Management (GEMA) is actually rolling out some new plans for disaster relief that include some of the stuff that they got to see here in Adairsville, especially with the businesses and churches all working together.”
Along with Franklin, other BCDR organizers were pleased to see volunteers of different denominations working together for a common goal throughout the relief efforts.
“I think what’s happened as a result of the tornado is giving the Body of Christ an opportunity to come together and do what we ought to be doing all the time,” Doug Harris, interim pastor of Cassville Baptist, previously told The Daily Tribune News. “This is what the church ought to be about is helping others, and this has really given us the opportunity to do that and I think the Body of Christ has really responded. They’ve done a great job and they’re continuing to do a great job.
“... It was organized chaos [in the beginning] but everything fell into place. People were patient. They wanted to get their assignments, and once they got their assignments, they were off and running and worked long hours every day. ... I’ve been around here a long time and I have never seen all the different denominations come together on one project the way they have on this tornado relief ...”
With its tornado recovery work complete, the BCDR is looking toward the future. Along with being better prepared for another natural disaster, the group also is planning to assist other communities in need.
“We’re excited about continuing, and we’re going to be doing stuff to continue to be more disaster prepared here locally and then one of our long-term goals is that we can take teams from Bartow to help other people,” Franklin said. “We need to go do this for other places that have been hit.
“People have blessed us, we need to go bless them. We actually ended up with a trailer that is filled with tools ... so we now can go some other place and have tools and just show up on a jobsite. We just [need] to get the right volunteers and the right people trained.”
For more information about Bartow Christian Disaster Recovery’s efforts, visit www.bartowrecovery.org or contact the Bartow Baptist Association at 770-607-0300.