Help is on the way

Published 5:04 pm Tuesday, December 14, 2021

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WINTON – In a season that manifests itself in giving, perhaps the best gifts are unwrapped.

Just as the sun was rising on a frosty morning here Tuesday, a group of local individuals departed the parking lot of Winton Baptist Church for a 10-hour drive westward.

Their destination is Bowling Green, Kentucky, one of the numerous communities devastated by a line of deadly tornadoes that tore through the western part of the Bluegrass State on Friday night. Upon arrival, the local group will join a larger team to help with the NC Baptist Disaster Relief efforts currently underway.

“There’s an immediate need in Kentucky and we’re going to help out any way we can,” said Cliff Sexton, the Director of the Baptist Men at Winton Baptist.

Joining Sexton on the trip are two others from Winton Baptist Church, Barry Williams and Pastor Derik Davis, along with Phillip Howell of Como, a member of Buckhorn Baptist Church, and Jennifer Payne of Gumberry, whose husband serves as the Pastor at Elam Baptist Church in Northampton County.

“There are not many people available at this time of the year due to the holidays, but help is needed there now,” Sexton stressed. “This is kind of an exploratory trip for us, we’ll find out what are their biggest needs.

“With the amount of damage we’ve all seen on the news, whatever those needs are in Kentucky they will still be needing help for months to come just to get back on their feet,” Sexton added. “That’s why we, as children of God, must help one another.”

Sexton said he and others have previously worked with NC Baptist Disaster Relief.

“Our last trip was to Wilmington, NC following damage there from a hurricane,” he recalled. “We made several trips there.”

Meanwhile, for Williams and Howell, this marks their first involvement with NC Baptist Disaster Relief.

“During my 34 years with Dominion Energy, I can’t count the number of times I was deployed after a storm,” said Williams, now retired. “I was on the other end of things on those occasions, making repairs to the electrical grid. This trip, what we’ll be doing, will be different for me this time.”

“I’ve volunteered to do a few things, but never have I tackled something like we’ve all see there in Kentucky,” said Howell. “I felt the need to help out. The timing is right for me to go. As a farmer, our year is wrapped up, so I can take the time to go and help.”

While the mission may change when they arrive in Bowling Green, Sexton said the local group are scheduled to assist in the mass feeding kitchens as well as visit and distribute hygiene kits to the tornado victims.

“We taking an enclosed 17-foot trailer containing items that were donated here locally,” he said.

Among the hygiene items are toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner, wash cloths, shave cream, disposable razors, mouthwash, Advil, Band Aids, nail clippers, nail files, cotton swabs, female hygiene products, hair combs and lip balm.

The locals will also be performing general recovery assessment in impacted areas and debris removal. They will also assist with onsite laundry.

“Our plan is to stay until Saturday afternoon and then head back home,” Sexton noted. “We’ve already planned a return trip to Kentucky just after the start of the new year.”

The Winton group will be based out of Hillvue Heights Baptist Church in Bowling Green.

“One side of that city was wiped out by a tornado,” Sexton said. “The disaster area has very limited power, fuel, and limited access to supplies.”

“The Lord led us to do this,” said Pastor Davis. “After this past Sunday’s service was done, Cliff came on stage and said let’s go [to Kentucky] and a little less than 24 hours later we had put together a plan to go and help.

“I praise God for this group who were willing to drop everything they were doing and go and help our brothers and sisters in need,” Davis continued. “Jesus dealt with storms during his time here on Earth. Whatever storm we go through in life, the Lord is there with us. We need to communicate that message to those in need in Kentucky. We’re there to show them hope and love, and to do God’s work as best we can.”

On Monday, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said the death toll is up to 74 in his state and there are more than 109 people who still have not been found. The ages of the deceased are from five months to 86 and the death toll is expected to rise as teams search for the missing.

“There’s not a camera lens big enough to show the path of absolute destruction. People have lost everything,” Beshear said in a statement.

The line of deadly storms also impacted several other states. The National Weather Service on Friday received reports of 37 tornadoes across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee. The strength of those tornadoes is still being assessed by NWS officials, who added that debris may have been tossed as high as 30,000 feet into the air.

The total death toll from those storms stood at 90 as of Monday.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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