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UMC ERTs help tornado victims in Barnwell County

The Rev. Fred Buchanan and Kevin Douglas hammer down felt paper on a tornado-damaged roof in Barnwell County near Blackville as a local volunteer looks on.

Two Early Response Teams from the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church traveled to Barnwell County near Blackville on Jan. 24 to assist victims in the wake of a tornado that came crashing in three days earlier.

The EF-2 storm devastated several dozen homes and a wide swath of woodlands, including a Barnwell State Park.

Volunteers are desperately needed to serve on or with Early Response Teams at all times. For more information, contact Matt Brodie at 803-786-9486 Ext. 261 or mbrodie@umcsc.org.

The teams worked from early morning to twilight in disaster zones, placing tarps on three damaged roofs and doing three chainsaw jobs, two of which included removing hazardous trees from homes to make them safe for occupants.

Many residents were caught off-guard by the devastating tornado that left several injured and most without power for days. Some homes were destroyed.

Most ERT members were seasoned responders who have been on countless missions across the Southeast, including the Nichols and Sellers blitzes.

Misty and Felix Vazquez nail down a tarp on a storm-damaged roof as Kevin Douglas helps.

“Each responder reflected on how humbling it is to serve people in their dire times of need and what an honor and privilege it is to be used by God in such wonderful ways,” said Billy Robinson, ERT disaster coordinator for United Methodist Volunteers in Mission of South Carolina. “There also are the countless blessings that God bestows upon us all when we come together in camaraderie as the true family/church of Jesus to do His good will.

“Beautiful blessings, such as the simple and gracious thanks of survivors, and the wonderful fulfillment that comes through serving God as his hands and feet to people during their times of need.”

The Rev. Fred Buchanan using a chainsaw on a damaged mobile home in Barnwell County to clear storm debris so a tarp can be placed on it and the debris removed.

Among the volunteer responders who joined Robinson in the work were the Rev. Fred Buchanan, Suzanne Lott, George Burckhalter, the Rev. Frank Copeland, George Branham, Felix and Misty Vazquez and Kevin Douglas.

Rev. Buchanan returned to the Blackville area on Wednesday to further assess damage and to see if any follow-up ERT visits are needed.

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