By Tyler Sprouse, TWK Communications Specialist
On February 22, 2022, at the 25th annual “Law and Safety Appreciation” awards dinner, the Hickman County Chamber of Commerce awarded Rev. Jim Melrose and Kedron UMC for their disaster relief efforts in response to the deadly floods that devastated Humphreys County in August 2021.
Although the roughly 15 member Kedron UMC was instrumental in the efforts, Rev. Melrose was quick to emphasize the collaborative nature of the initiative, both within the connectionalism of the UMC and beyond.
“Kedron [UMC] is part of the four-point Duck River charge,” said Rev. Melrose. “Along with Bon Aqua, East Hickmon, and Nunnelly UMCs, each small churches in their own right, we were able to make an enormous impact.”
Days after the devastating storms subsided, members of the charge’s churches began collecting non-perishables, food, and water; UMCOR gave disaster relief buckets with cleaning supplies and other essentials; people within the community donated diapers and other infant care materials.
While the churches amassed ample resources and recruited volunteers, they were in need of a centralized location from which they could efficiently and expediently allocate the supplies. They partnered with the Hickman County Emergency Management Association, utilizing its disaster relief shelter as their distribution hub.
According to Jim Tanner, the Hickman County Emergency Manager and President of the Emergency Management Association of Tennessee (EMAT), it was a perfect partnership.
“We are a smaller jurisdiction,” said Tanner, “so we have to think outside of the box. In order for us to do the work of responding to emergencies, partnerships are vital.”
The Emergency Management Association (EMA) gave all donation organizational responsibilities to Kedron, allowing EMA to attend to other sides of the disaster relief work. Tanner helped Rev. Melrose coordinate shifts for the large number of volunteers.
“So many people from our churches stepped up,” said Rev. Melrose. “We had enough volunteers to fully staff the shelter every day for a month, including weekends.”
The site not only addressed the people’s physical needs, but their spiritual and emotional concerns as well.
“Folks would come to us to talk,” said Rev. Melrose, “and share how they were processing and dealing with the damage done. We helped them realize that they were not alone.”
For Tanner and the EMA, partnering with churches like those in the Duck River charge is particularly special.
“In small, rural communities like ours,” reflected Tanner, “the church is vital in a disaster response situation. People know that they can go to the church and other faith-based organizations for help. It’s inspiring seeing folks live by the example of Jesus.”
Although Rev. Melrose expressed gratitude for the award, he also emphasized an urgency and excitement for his churches to continue bearing witness through similar partnerships with the wider community–something he believes other smaller congregations can do effectively. “We are part of the community,” said Rev. Melrose, “and not just a building. Other similarly sized churches can make a difference in their communities–but they cannot wait for people to come to them; they have to go out and establish trusting relationships with people and organizations throughout their towns.
“When a church makes an effort to go beyond its walls,” continued Rev. Melrose, “it is amazing how a ministry with limited resources and a small membership can have an impact that increasingly grows.”
Note: Churches of the Duck River charge continue to provide support in the rebuilding process with donations that were contributed by UMCs throughout the connectional system.