Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Neighbors, strangers come to aid of storm victims in Priest Lake area

Tennessean Written by Nancy DeVille Before Candace Burris could even ask for help, volunteers were standing on her doorstop ready to help clear debris from her Priest Lake property that a tornado left behind after it ripped through Antioch and southeastern Davidson County last month. An 80-foot tree landed on the Blue Mist Court home, nearly splitting it in half and sending rubbish crashing into the front yard and porch. “We’ve just had people from all over come by to help carry things off, get rid of trash and ask if we needed help with laundry,” she said. “Strangers have been showing their love and concern for people in need. This is what Nashvillians do.” Dozens of homes and two churches suffered significant damage in Priest Lake during the recent tornado, and the community has come together to help its neighbors recover. “It’s really been a phenomenal effort with all the volunteers coming out to help,” said Council Lady Vivian Wilhoite, who represents the area. “We got our practice from the May flood, so it was very easy to put it into play during this disaster. This is what community is all about.” The Priest Lake Presbyterian Church is in the long process of rebuilding after the tornado ripped off half of its roof. The building has been secured, pews removed and placed into temporary storage. Weekly services are being held in the church’s gymnasium, and church leaders expect it will take 5-7 months before repairs will be complete on the Smith Springs Road sanctuary. Despite its recovery efforts, the church has set up a disaster relief fund to assist other victims in the area. “It’s easy to get caught up in your own drama, but we are aware of our neighbors that have been hurt,” said the Rev. Paul Burns, pastor of Priest Lake Presbyterian. “Any help we receive we are trying to push towards these families.” Outreach efforts resume The congregation at Smith Springs Church of Christ isn’t letting the storm damage interfere with its community outreach. While its sanctuary can’t be used, the church is continuing to host homeless guests each Friday night through Room In The Inn, a local outreach program that shuttles homeless guests to more than 170 congregations to eat and sleep every winter night. The Friday after the storm was the church’s first time not hosting Room In The Inn. It has participated in the program for more than 15 years. “The church has been under the hammer, but we are going to be faithful and honor our commitment,” Pastor Tim Alexander said. “I’m very proud of my people because we all believe in this program and we just can’t suspend it.” A portion of the church’s roof was blown off, and a tree fell on the education wing. Alexander estimates that it could take a up to a year before repairs are complete. services are being held in the church’s gymnasium. In a recent sermon, Alexander encouraged the congregation to not let their faith wither. “Our church is built on the foundation of Christ, and that’s going to endure,” he said. “Even if the storm had been worst, the foundation would have remained. And you can always build on a good foundation.” Contact Nancy DeVille at 615-259-8304 or ndeville@tennessean.com.

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