Tennessee Wildfires

The State of Tennessee has been devastated by wildfires that ravaged parts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge more than a week ago. Our Southern Union Conference has also been affected by these fires. The GA-Cumberland Conference has taken up the main responsibility for this area. ACS DR Coordinator Terry Haight is in search of a building that can be utilized for setting up a Warehouse. In addition, the GA-Cumberland Conference was able to gain access to the town of Pigeon Forge to assess the needs of the community. As they drove through the area the smoke was hanging very low and visibility was down to roughly 10 feet, making it difficult for work to be done in such conditions. 

Here is a report from local news coverage:

  • Damage assessments continue in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevier County in the wake of wildfires that killed seven people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.
  • Firefighters are striving hard to extinguish as many as 14 remaining blazes as rain brings some relief to the area. The fires covered more than 15,000 acres at its peak.
  • As many as 14,000 visitors and residents in Sevier County and Gatlinburg were forced to evacuate ahead of the blaze. 
  • State law enforcement has set up a hotline for people to report missing family and friends.

Let us remember those who have been affected by this tragedy.

Closing of Baton Rouge Distribution Center

The Distribution Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will be closing operations effective October 31, 2016. On behalf of the Southwest Region Conference President Calvin Watkins, Church Ministries Director Elder Durandel Ford, Sr., ADRA International, as well as the North American Division Adventist Community Services, we want to express our sincere gratitude to all those involved for their dedicated support and assistance in the Recovery efforts of the Louisiana floods. 

It has been a pleasure not only to serve, but also collaborate with other individuals and organizations. A huge appreciation goes out to the following: Irene Williams; Lyn Hykeem; Area Seventh-day Adventist Churches; Sung Kwon; Elizabeth Tomenko; Lavida Whitson; W. Derrick Lea; Pr. William Little and the Nashville Area S.D.A. Churches; Nashville, Tenn. YMCA; Royliene Johnson; Pr. Michael Bailey, Sr.; Portia Perkins; Evelyn Edwards; FEMA; Salvation Army; VOAD; State of Louisiana; T. Ron Weegar; Mildred Dunn and her staff; Brenda Clark and staff; Vendetta Smith and staff; Theresa Paris and her staff; Elder Benjamin Francois and staff; Sherlette Burkhalter and staff; Lucinda Keller; Pr. Robert Davis; Pr. Alfred Booker; Westbank United S.D.A. Church Van & Pr. David Hinds and his staff; Pr. Eliot Brooks; Charlene Thompson and her staff; H. and H. Equipment of Baton Rouge; Clio Place Baptist Church & Pastor Sherman L. Hughes, Sr.; ARK- LA- TEX; American Red Cross; Mediannites; The Baptist Associations; Mormons; and many others. 

We would also like to thank Mr. Freddy Lawrence for his patience and expertise in the area of record keeping for the Grant that supported the victims, volunteers, and management of services of the "Great Flood of Louisiana 2016". Let us continue to keep all those who are still being affected by this tragedy and also others affected by such weather-related events.


Hurricane Matthew Update

The Southern Union and its Conferences have been actively involved in helping communities post-hurricane. The Florida Conference deployed Disaster Response individuals out to areas within its region.  A few roofs needed tarps to cover exposed areas, but for the most part those affected were able to manage with their own resources.  The Southeastern Conference ACS DR Team, led by Director Peay, identified various requests on the ground in the Daytona area. 

The South Atlantic Conference took care of the states of Georgia and South Carolina. As the hurricane was approaching the coast, the town of Savanah was emptied and evacuated just prior to landfall.  The inhabitants traveled to the camp site run by South Atlantic. The Camp managers Fullard and his wife provided shelter, food, and comfort kits (including church literature) for over 250 people on the camp site. Several power companies had responded to help in the Recovery, as many towns were over 90% without power. The South Atlantic also provided lodging to the workers, so they might provide service to those who were without power. Currently, roughly 80 workers continue to be housed in the hotels run by Church personnel. Most of those from Savannah have returned back home.

The NAD ACS Disaster Team was able to provide partners who could provide assistance like food, water and other household items to those affected. We are teaming up with other NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) through daily Conference calls where the effects of the storm are discussed. We will continue working with our local Conference leadership in the affected areas and are grateful for their timely assistance to their community. The Carolina Conference is looking for volunteers to help out in the South Carolina Warehouse in Mullins. If you wish to volunteer or donate please click here.

Southeastern States Prepare for Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew's impending arrival in the Southeastern states is preparing residents for the worst. The much talked about hurricane has already made a strong impact in and around Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas. It is expected to be a historic catastrophe which currently has sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. This weather event is a Category 3 and residents up and down the east coast have been asked to stay abreast of their local conditions and evacuation routes as appropriate. 

The NAD ACS Disaster Response Team held a Gotomeeting of its Union Directors and a few affected Conference Directors that are currently on the ground in the region. An overview of the expected timeline as forecast was provided. They also outlined some of the resources that could be available to them should the need arise from FEMA, VOAD, and local Emergency Management. The Southern Union Conference gave the following report from its local teams in South Carolina and Georgia:

  • 11 Warehouses have been identified in South Carolina for use should the state need us to set them up
  • South Carolina is in full Activation at their EOC
  • South Carolina can deploy as soon as needed
  • As of 3 pm today, approximately 1,000,000 has evacuated from the coast area
  • I20/26 is one way from the coast to I77/26
  • A Reentry program is in place and will determine who gets back into evacuated area
  • Coastal Churches that might evacuate have been contacted and inland churches have offered support
  • GA team is available for deployment and can respond within 2 hours

Bill Brimner, the lead Disaster person of Florida Conference, is currently working to ensure that Florida is ready for the effects of the Hurricane. Several Unions have expressed their willingness to assist the other conferences that are/will be affected, and we’ll be the liaison to facilitate this in a smooth manner. 

Let us remember those who have already been affected by this tragic weather, and those who are on high alert as Hurricane Matthew continues to pose a threat for communities.

The official forecast track shows Hurricane Matthew approaching Florida and heading towards the east coast this week. Photo by ABC News (www.abcnews.go.com)

The official forecast track shows Hurricane Matthew approaching Florida and heading towards the east coast this week. Photo by ABC News (www.abcnews.go.com)

Gift of $15,000 for Louisiana Flood Relief

The Samaritan Center, located in Ooltewah, TN, gifted a check of $15,000 to ACS Arkansas-Louisiana for Relief Efforts following the intense historic floods in Louisiana last month. In addition to the monetary gift, a van-load of needed cleaning tools and supplies were also provided to support the ongoing clean-up efforts in the flood-affected community. The Samaritan Center put in $8,000 from its disaster relief reserve fund that was created in response to the devastating tornadoes of 2011. The remaining $7,000 were given by donors. A Big 'Thank you' goes to the many community members who supported this important initiative. Dozens of our Louisiana neighbors have the help they need, due to your kindness.

Lavida Whitson (left), ARKLA ACS Director, receives gift of $15,000 from Keith Heming (right), Operations director of the Samaritan Center.

Lavida Whitson (left), ARKLA ACS Director, receives gift of $15,000 from Keith Heming (right), Operations director of the Samaritan Center.

Adventist Community Services Convention 2016

The NAD Adventist Community Services hosted its Convention this year from September 7-10 at Gladstone, Oregon. It was co-sponsored by the North Pacific Union Conference. The event was widely attended by more than 200 community outreach leaders and volunteers from around the nation and beyond. They were blessed with uplifting music, inspirational messages, informative workshops, and also a sightseeing tour of the main attractions in the area. They also had the privilege to take a tour of the Portland Adventist Community Services Center.

Dr. Sung Kwon, Executive Director of NAD ACS, provided the initial keynote message on the first evening of the convention. Other presenters throughout the event included Bill Knott, Adventist Review editor, Zack Plantak, Professor of Religion & Ethics, Loma Linda University, and May-Ellen and Gaspar Colon, co-authors of the third quarter Sabbath School lessons. Elder Dan Jackson, NAD President, delivered the Friday evening keynote message and the Sabbath morning sermon. On Sabbath afternoon, various outreach ministries provided a short presentation on their programs and activities. 

A big 'Thank You' to all those who attended and made our Convention a success! We would really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to fill out the survey below. Please provide us your suggestions and concerns as we continue planning such events in the future. Thank you for your time!


Check out photos on our Facebook page


Perspectives on ACS at National Mass Care Exercise

On August 22-25, the NAD Adventist Community Services led out in the National Mass Care Exercise (NMCE), which was developed by the Iowa-Missouri Conference ACS Director, Jody Dickhaut. The purpose is to simulate an actual crisis event and determine how a community would respond during a major disaster. Other NGOs that participated in this unprecedented Exercise included The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), State Emergency Management, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and etc. 

Duane Hallock, an Adventist church member, is the Regional Communications Director for the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, Missouri. Being an Adventist, Hallock was quite impressed to see the Church actively involved in serving communities around the nation. "I listened in as Jody Dickhaut conducted his morning briefing, and it was obvious that considerable planning and preparation had already been done. I was given renewed confidence in the ability of Adventists to respond quickly and effectively when needed," says Hallock.

Hallock added, "I always show up on the scene of a disaster and look for “my people” – those wearing red vests. When I showed up for this exercise, I noticed that wherever I looked I also saw a large number of people in golden yellow shirts. As a Seventh-day Adventist, I was filled with pride knowing that these were also “my people” – volunteers with the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response."

Hallock was not only pleased to see the work the Adventist Church is doing, but also with the relationships ACS is developing with our peer organizations. "Once during the drill, I noticed how both groups – those in yellow shirts and those in red vests – were co-mingling. Again, I was overcome with pride as I saw all of “my people” working together seamlessly to serve the humanitarian needs of our hurting world", stated Hallock.

Collaborative Recovery Efforts in Louisiana

Early Monday (August 29) morning, the NAD ACS Team met up with the ACS workers from Tennessee at the Distribution Center, and spoke with them about about how their home churches and some counties had supported them in their plans to help with the Relief work in Louisiana. The discussion also involved reviewing a listing of the homes affected that had been prepared by the local ACS leadership, and outlining them in a manner that would ensure the most effective use of the resources. The discussion with the team from Tennessee was followed by another discussion with the American Red Cross Team led by Director Carlos.

The different groups that were actively involved in the Recovery Efforts touched on some of the shortfalls that they had experienced in the last few days. For example, the Red Cross highlighted some of their concerns with the donated “stuff’ that had been given to them. In the afternoon, conference calls were held for our Union Directors and some of our other Conference Directors/Coordinators to discuss the continued work in Louisiana. "This interaction will create opportunities for collaborative support of our team on the ground and we’ll follow-up upon my return to the home office," says W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS Disaster Response Director.

Presently, the local Southwest Regional and Arkansas-Louisiana Conferences are scheduling volunteers to serve in both the Warehouse and the Wellness Center. As these plans are being formulated, the local community continues to keep an eye on the weather reports. In the last six months, Louisiana has been hit by a Tornado in February, a major flooding in the Spring when 40 of the 64 Parishes were affected to experiencing this latest flooding. Forecast reports are now calling for a possible Hurricane that is predicted to devastate the State again.  

Please, let us keep the State of Louisiana in our thoughts and prayers, for their protection and safety as they encounter such weather-related tragedies.

ACS Continues Work in Baton Rouge, LA

On August 28 early morning (Sunday), ACS continued its Recovery Efforts by starting the day off at the Warehouse in Baton Rouge, by taking in supplies from around the region and distributing them appropriately. A letter from the State of Louisiana (see link below) was sent to all the public and non-governmental organizations, informing them about the ACS-operated Warehouse. "We believe the push from the State will lead to a continual increase in the amount of goods received at the facility run by our team for the community affected," says W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS Disaster Response Director.

In addition to the ACS members, they were also able to negotiate an agreement with the Federal Government to use VISTA workers at the Warehouse. This group is made up of young people from around the country who volunteer their services for as many as 12 months to public service. They were able to get hold of ten of these workers who have worked in partnership with our ACS staff and volunteers to help transform two empty buildings into functional Warehouses that will serve Louisiana for many months. On the same day, a 6-member team of ACS workers from Nashville, TN had arrived. They were directed to their sleeping quarters where they will reside for the next week. This group has partnered with the Southwest Regional Conference and agreed to use their skills, equipment and abilities to clean homes in the Baton Rouge area. 

In addition to the work at the Warehouse, ACS continues its Shelter and Distribution Center operation on Osborne Avenue in Baton Rouge. ACS is providing meals, cots, and even entertainment for the children. Southwest Regional Conference is providing this service through the ACS Director Durandel Ford. Several individuals have signed up to offer their assistance for this cause. The commitment shown by such people whose homes had not been affected was humbling and truly showed the spirit that Christ asks of us.

Letter from State of Louisiana about the Warehouse

VISTA workers at the Warehouse in Baton Rouge, LA

VISTA workers at the Warehouse in Baton Rouge, LA

The Distribution Center on Osborn Avenue in Baton Rouge, LA

The Distribution Center on Osborn Avenue in Baton Rouge, LA