Tornado clean-up nearing finish; long-term recovery next

By Martha S. Taylor Special Contributor Rebuilding and clean-up across central and northeast Arkansas continues following the April and May tornadoes that left a trail of debris in their wake. While life for those in the hardest hit communities of Mayflower and Vilonia continues to be a challenge, Jonesboro residents were able to recover quickly since the damage was less severe. Two United Methodist churches in Jonesboro, First UMC and Cornerstone UMC, sustained damage. First UMC Jonesboro’s business manager Scot Woodruff said the church is well on the way to repairing the wind and water damage that affected their music, classroom and office areas, as well as their sanctuary. “We have a temporary roof on the northwest corner of the building where the most wind and water damage occurred,” he said. “Water damage repair is close to complete and ceiling tiles, insulation and paint are happening now.” A similar scenario is playing out at Cornerstone, where the church’s large brick sign on the main thoroughfare was blown over. “We were lucky that the church didn’t have any damage, especially since we sit on a hill where we get a lot of wind,” said associate pastor the Rev. Mark Cloninger. “While it was unfortunate to lose the sign, we are grateful that no one was hurt.” Both Cloninger and Woodruff agree that if there is a silver lining to the storm, it is that they witnessed people coming together to help. Members and non-members alike joined in to pick up bricks blocking the Cornerstone driveway, and at First UMC Jonesboro, members showed up almost immediately to remove equipment and furnishings to prevent their being damaged. “There was a lot of great cooperation that took place following the storm,” Woodruff said. “It was good to see people just show up and offer to help.” In central Arkansas, disaster response co-coordinator Janice Mann said that the emergency relief effort is winding down, but that doesn’t mean the UMC’s work is complete. “We will soon be entering the long-term relief phase of this disaster,” Mann said. “This is where United Methodists are unique from some response groups. We stick with the communities for the long haul.” Mann added that there will be additional needs for Mayflower and Vilonia. More information will be shared in future issues of the Arkansas United Methodist and online. The Rev. Taylor serves as communications officer for the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response Team.