Organizations provide cleanup help in Cassville

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Joe Banderman, collegiate disaster relief coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, stands in the home of a local resident whose home was devastated by recent flooding. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief brings hope, help, healing to community

Disaster is not a word one would expect to hear in the small community of Cassville, nor would residents expect to see the national guard or disaster relief vehicles driving down Main Street.

But, with its unique topography lending itself to flash flooding after heavy rains that quickly flow into the city from seven different waterways, disaster struck July 7 and July 9 in the city of seven valleys.

Cassville City Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr meets with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Regional Coordinator Charles McCrary Tuesday at the Family Life Center, to asses residents' needs after last week's floods and create a plan of action to assist them. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

The worst flooding since 1993, several residents experienced varying degrees of loss and devastation.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the second largest disaster relief organization in the nation with 65,000 trained staff and volunteers who respond to disaster and devastation from California to New Jersey, heard about the flooding and brought about 30 volunteers to help local residents, like Cassville's Rachel Ruark and Justin Ruark and their six children.

The family had just repainted and purchased new furniture a month ago, but disaster unexpectedly struck, completely flooding their home. Like many other families who live near Flat Creek, they were aware of the potential of flooding, but never expected flooding of this magnitude.

"The water had come up before, but never like this," Rachel Ruark said.

The flooding caused so much damage, the carpets and floors had to be removed and the sheet rock replaced. All of the furniture had to be removed. The family has no insurance, as flood insurance is unattainable in the area due to the city not being in the National Flood Insurance Program. With no insurance, the family hopes to receive help to purchase supplies to essentially rebuild their home from the State Emergency Management Agency.

Disaster Relief Volunteer Lindey Broyles, 19, of Neosho throws away debris from the home of a local resident whose home was devastated by recent flooding. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

In the meantime, the family is living with a relative while Southern Baptist Disaster Relief crews are helping remove the damaged carpets, floors and sheet rock, as well as providing support and encouragement to the whole family.

"It's a lot to adjust to," Ruark said. "They've been great."

Charles McCrary, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief regional coordinator for northwest Missouri, has been going wherever needed to help victims with the physical and emotional aftermath of natural disasters since 2005, working in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Missouri and other states. But his first introduction to disaster relief was Hurricane Katrina.

"We took equipment and ended up doing mud-out work," McCrary said. "You get hooked on it. Katrina was total devastation. We saw two story buildings with the bottoms completely washed out. Joplin was much more emotional for me, because we talked to more victims. It was emotional to listen to their stories.

Cassville City Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr meets with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Regional Coordinator Charles McCrary Tuesday at the Family Life Center, to asses residents' needs after last week's floods and create a plan of action to assist them. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"Many were at home when the tornado hit, but still survived. In one case, a husband was home alone and wrapped himself in a mattress. The next thing he knew, he was in the yard next to his house and the mattress was in a tree in another yard. It was six hours before he knew where his family was.

McCrary said Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is the second-largest disaster relief organization in the nation.

"We work very closely with the Red Cross," he said. "Most of the time, we are in the background, for instance, preparing food for victims, and the Red Cross delivers it. We respond to tornados, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, help with chainsaw crews, mud, child care and feeding units. If three quarters of Cassville were wiped out we could feed a lot of people if necessary.

"We meet the [victims'] physical needs with their homes, but also the spiritual needs. We have trained chaplains to visit with them. The spiritual is our number-one focus, but we're here to address the physical needs. We're prepared to remove sheet rock and flooring, we have power washers and are prepared to deal with mold. We have a product we use to kill the mold and prevent it from coming back."

Disaster Relief Volunteers Lindey Broyles, 19, left, of Neosho and Ashley Palmer, 19, of Joplin, from the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief collegiate program do drywall work in a room of a local resident whose home was devastated by recent flooding. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

The relief agency has thousands of trained volunteers who carry out the organizations' mission across the country, relying on donations for funding.

"Many of our volunteers are retired from various occupations," McCrary said. "We love the Lord and He set the example for service. So we try to set the example He set for others. Every disaster is different. What you do at one you don't necessarily do at another. In Nebraska a few weeks ago, we scooped mud in a basement into five-gallon buckets then dumped it out the window. Volunteers can help in areas they are interested in.

"We have chaplains for victims but even our volunteers need to talk to someone, too, because of what they see. We find that victims want to talk about the disaster. Our whole goal is to bring hope, help and healing."

This time, McCrary and his crew of trained volunteers, whose base of operations is Family Life Center, got the opportunity to bring hope, help and healing to the Cassville community.

Disaster Relief Volunteer Ryan Steel, 20, of Park Hills, helps local resident Riley Roark, 10, load furniture. Along with providing the hard work of cleanup and construction, Steel and other collegiate volunteers help keep local children company and make them feel comfortable in the aftermath of unexpected disasters. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"They organization is a God-send to this community," said Dana Kammerlohr, police chief.

McCrary met with Kammerlohr to assess damage and come up with a plan of action.

Many residents met with SEMA recently to see what funding, if any, was available, to rebuild and repair damaged property.

Joe Banderman, collegiate disaster relief coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, who has been involved in disaster relief since Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, brought his crew of young volunteers who give up 10 weeks of their summer to provide practical, hands-on help to those affected by disasters.

"Last year, we traveled 12,000 miles," he said.

Volunteer Ryan Steel, 20, of Park Hills, who has been doing mission trips since age seven, was one of the people who came to help.

"I know God's got a greater plan so I stopped planning for what I want and He plans what He wants," he said. "I typically enjoy my life better when I do that. We're called to be the hands and feet of Jesus. There's no greater joy in finding God's will [for your life] and doing it."

Disaster Relief Volunteer Gabe Craig, 19, of Park Hills, helps volunteer Ryan Steel, 20, of Park Hills, load furniture from a local home devastated by recent flooding. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Lindsey Broyles, 19, of Neosho, said she felt called to the organization.

"I had applied for other ministries and nothing seemed right until I heard of this one," she said. "It gets kids my age here doing community works to spread the love of Jesus. I feel like God sent me here to help. [The families affected by flooding] are overwhelmed. We get the chance to take some of that load off them, to give hope again."

Banderman said he was particularly proud of his young crew, who is not only learning compassion and the significance of community service, but many practical skills and trades.

"I had to make them quit last night," Banderman said. "If all you know about kids today is Facebook and Twitter, you need to spend some time with this generation. From high school through college, kids are asked what they want to do and who they want to be when the grow up. Service helps us outside ourselves and think what can we do for others, how can I solve a problem? I've never lost a home to a flood, but if I ever do, I hope friends are there to help me."

Volunteer Assessor Ron Sherrill and daughter Jessica Sherrill, 19, of Bon Terre, also a volunteer with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, work together on a residents' lawnmower that was damaged by flood waters last week. Afterward, Jessica Sherill planned to mow the resident's yard to help out. Collegiate volunteers like Sherill not only help victims of disasters with practical needs but learn practical skills themselves. Ron Sherill, who has been an assessor since 2010, makes the initial contact with homeowners, explains what to expect when crews come, and takes the paperwork back to the base of operations where the next steps are determined.

Gabe Craig, 19, of Park Hills, is happy to provide help for local residents.

"I think it's a blessing to be able to help these people and to be the hands and feet of Jesus," he said. "It brings joy to help people."

For more information on how to become a volunteer with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, or to donate, people may call 573-556-0314, or visit their website at http://www.baptistrelief.org/.

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