It was the largest tornado outbreak recorded in US history. The storm killed 348 people and affecting communities over 21 states. Even beyond the lives lost and people injured, the physical destruction was monumental—causing more than $4.2 billion in damage.
World Renew DRS responded quickly in the early days of the response to this disaster, providing several counties in northwestern Alabama with Rapid Response volunteers, early assessments, and then sending more volunteers to assess survivors unmet needs.
In June 2011, many people in the 1200-resident community of Parrish in Walker County, Alabama, were still struggling to recover from the destruction. One mother and her disabled, adult son who live in Parrish, Joan and Dennis Alvarado, received some assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) but couldn’t afford to complete the repairs needed to make their home livable on their own.
World Renew DRS volunteers worked over the summer to scrub, paint, re-roof, and replace the flooring, walls, and windows in the Alvarado’s home. They also installed a fully accessible bathroom that Dennis can roll into in his wheelchair, a huge personal care improvement for Dennis who had been making-do for seven years before the tornadoes struck.
The Alvarados are one of the many indigent, elderly, and disabled families that World Renew DRS volunteers have assisted in Alabama over the last two years. In all, more than 450 volunteers have given 68,000 hours of their time to help families affected by the tornadoes in April 2011. These dedicated individuals repaired or rebuilt 70 homes with and for those who needed help the most.
In addition, World Renew DRS’s Groups Program organized more than 995 volunteers who gave 62,000 hours in service work in Alabama in 78 church, youth, or family groups. These short-term volunteers repaired another 165 homes damaged by the tornadoes. World Renew DRS volunteers also completed proper building estimates for 18 homeowners in Walker County, Alabama, to help them restore their residence to adequate living conditions.
Program manager Art Opperwall says, “We often don’t understand why God allows devastating things to happen to good people, including the loss of loved ones and homes. But we are often amazed by how he works after a disaster—bringing many people and circumstances together to bring encouragement and hope, along with new homes, to those who have lived through it.”