- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

COXEY, Ala. (AP) - The time to say goodbye was emotional for Stacey Ridgeway, director of the Clements Baptist Church tornado relief center.

Ridgeway has spent the last four weeks volunteering with her new friends after the April 28 tornado.

The center is closing today, so many of the volunteers are returning to their homes in other counties and states.

“It’s hard to say goodbye,” Ridgeway said. “But every day we have less families coming to us for help.”

Relief centers are beginning to close or set dates for closing, and they’re seeking places to send donated items.

Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian service and relief organization, left western Limestone County on Wednesday.

Wayne Shoemaker, of the North Carolina-based organization, said the number of work orders dropped to one or two a day. The group leaves a disaster area when it becomes difficult to sustain consistent work for out-of-town volunteers, he said.

Samaritan’s Purse has been organizing volunteers through the United Way of Limestone County. Shoemaker said 471 volunteers have filled 133 work orders and put in 5,900 volunteer hours since his group arrived May 3.

Work continues in the area with mostly volunteers who live nearby.

Despite closing three disaster relief centers in other parts of the state this week, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said Wednesday no date has been set for closing the Limestone County center on Ripley Road.

The center will be open Monday, although Memorial Day is a federal holiday.

Ridgeway said tornado survivors are receiving FEMA checks, so there is less need for help.

“They’re getting into homes and getting more established,” Ridgeway said.

American Red Cross emergency services manager Shirley Crutcher said her organization is no longer paying for storm victims to stay in local hotels.

“Most are in homes or have made other living arrangements,” Crutcher said.

Pam Clark said her clothing distribution center at the Catfish Inn will close May 31.

“I would love to keep it open for a long time, but I just can’t,” Clark said.

Mount Carmel Church of Christ advertises on its sign that clothes are available, but the church was closed Wednesday.

Ridgeway and Clark said they were amazed by the number of items contributed to storm relief. Clements Baptist Church filled half of a gymnasium with food, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies and pet food.

Clothes overflow the old restaurant and fill the parking lot. An 18-wheeler truck trailer stands full of clothes.

Capt. David Sams, of the Salvation Army, said people often get overwhelmed by the amount of donations when they open a tornado relief center.

“The two items people don’t know what to do with at the end are clothes and water,” Sams said.

Michael Browning, missions minister at Clements Baptist, said his church plans to give leftover food and personal items to Limestone County churches involved in Athens.

The county’s Department of Human Resources will get the baby items, and the pet food will go to Limestone County Animal Rescue.

Clark said she wants to give the clothes to a shelter for battered and abused women or a church with a clothing closet.

“I’ll find someone who will give the clothes to the right people,” she said.

LCCI food pantry coordinator Daisy McCormack said the food and personal items would be welcome at a time when the organization doesn’t usually received many donations. LCCI doesn’t accept clothes.

Sams said he will accept the items and clothes at the Salvation Army’s Athens location. Monetary donations are also needed, he said.

Crutcher said tornado victims who still need help should contact the Red Cross.

“We expect to be helping people get the resources they need for the next six months to a year,” Crutcher said.


Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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