As the tornado response effort moves firmly into the relief phase, local faith leaders are taking point through the Recover Lebanon 2020 committee.
The group is now working to connect volunteers with survivors and meet individual needs, with its next meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Immanuel Baptist Church.
“We have a full network of volunteers,” Angela Kubic, one of the committee’s co-leads and a member of Launchpoint Church, said. “Our main function is to be an ear for people who were affected by the tornado, and we work to collect basic information as we talk with them so we can meet their needs.”
Approximately 20 volunteers attended the committee’s first meeting to speak with victims, and resources will be distributed as need through partner organizations like the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and the Salvation Army.
“When we first became aware of a need, John Grant with Compassionate Hands called a meeting with numerous churches in the community,” Kubic said. “We wanted to help people without duplicating effort, and realized we needed a strong communication process and management.”
Recover Lebanon 2020 grew out of that meeting, with backing from local government officials, first responders and relief organizations.
“The good news is that there are many resources, lots of people and many others who are ready to help,” David Freeman, Recover Lebanon 2020 co-lead and First Baptist Church pastor, said at the committee’s first public meeting. “Our goal today, if you’ve been affected by the storms … is to make sure you leave here and that you know that we care about you and we are going to walk with you through this.”
Attendees were able to learn about local services in place to help tornado victims in addition to speaking with volunteers, and left with baskets of food collected by community partners.
“As of today, there is a mobile unit at the outlet mall if you’ve lost your driver’s license,” Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said. “There’s a mobile unit out there if you’ve lost your home and need internet service or office space. If you need a place to file your insurance claims or work with FEMA, that place is out there for Workforce Essentials.”
The county also hopes to have a service in place at the outlet mall next week to help people who lost tax documents work with the IRS, and continues to work at finding a spot for a FEMA station.
“Our next goal is to put it at the Gentry building at the Ag Center,” Hutto said. “Hermitage Community Center will take care of the west side of the county, the Gentry building right now will take care of the east side. We are working with the UAW building beside Middle Tennessee Electric to have that as a permanent facility so that our FEMA folks can assist our people.”
For assistance with more everyday needs, Recover Lebanon 2020 is backed by funds from groups like the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
“We will be distributing money through local nonprofits here that have a direct impact in your lives,” Bob Black of CFMT said. “We’re going to be here for the long term making sure that you have the resources you need to rebuild your lives and rebuild your homes. We have approximately $7 million that’s been donated.”
Wilson Bank and Trust has also budgeted approximately $100 million for short-term loans to assist those impacted by the storm, and the local school systems’ Family Resource Centers are providing relief for those in their districts.
“Both of us have had boots on the ground and we’ve been doing everything we can to get information, food and necessities out to our families,” Lebanon Special School District Family Resource Center Director Beth Petty said. “We want to start by saying if you were impacted, we don’t know how you feel … but we think you might be scared, you might be tired, we think you might be hungry and at a loss for what to do next.”
Petty said both LSSD and Wilson County Schools are still in the planning stages, but they intend to assist families for as long as needed.
“It’s just another opportunity of how we’re going to get through this,” Black said. “We’re going to get through it together, we’re going to get through it by holding hands, we’re going to get through it because we know what the other side looks like and we want to make sure we can get there the right way.”