November 23, 2020

Mennonite crews help rebuild after tornado in eastern Mississippi

MERIDIAN — Mennonite volunteers arrived last week to help rebuild homes in a Mississippi community damaged in a 2018 tornado.

Kim Waters, a member of a disaster recovery committee, said some residents still haven’t returned to their homes or are living in houses with damage such as leaky roofs. She said older people with fixed incomes have had trouble affording repairs.

“The MDS is one group of volunteers that volunteered to provide free labor for these people that need help,” Waters said.

The volunteers are from Indiana and came to volunteer using their own vacation and holiday time.

The tornado, with top winds estimated at 115 mph (185 kph), damaged as many as 200 homes and business overall when it hit Meridian and Lauderdale County

Larry Miller, a member of the Mennonite Disaster Service, said the relief efforts the group provides are unique.
“Historically we’re different from other Protestants because we don’t do war, we like to do peace,” said Miller. “It’s our response to doing something very important for the country in lieu of doing military stuff that would violate our conscience.”

According to Miller, the Mennonite Disaster Service is exceptional because of its large pool of volunteers and its ability to delegate 90 percent of funds to actual service, and only 10 percent toward administration. He said not many relief efforts can duplicate those numbers.

“Our national office has a hotline to recruit volunteers,” said Miller. “We draw the funds and chip in free labor.”

Although the service has done valuable work in Meridian, there is a still a need for volunteers and donations to help pay skilled electricians and other workers.