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Selma Recap final from AV/AVP TV on Vimeo.

Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

On Friday, grassroots organizers from area organizations came together for a day of service as they helped distribute food to Selma residents and packed supplies needed for residents in the Beloit and Orrville communities in the aftermath of a tornado that ripped through the heart of the city. 

Residents in Dallas County were struck by an EF-2 tornado on January 12, 2023, which was one of 13 tornadoes that ravaged Alabama on that day. The tornado was on the ground for 26 minutes and cut a path nearly half a mile wide, according to the National Weather Service. It began just east of Orrville near the intersection of Hwy. 22 and Cahaba Road following a track that was nearly parallel with Hwy. 22. The tornado made its way into downtown Selma where Broad Street sustained heavy damage as well as the neighborhoods near Minter Avenue, Leroy Street and Marie Foster Street, where roofs were lifted off of homes causing utter devastation throughout the community. 

More than a week later, damage in the Queen City is still widespread, but recovery efforts are in full swing. 

On Friday, the Beacon Center, a ministry of Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Montgomery along with Delta Pi Lambda, Alpha Phi Alpha, First Baptist Church, City Councilman Billy Young and Southside Church of Christ, held a mobile food pantry at First Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Street. 

Twenty-eight pallets of frozen meat, produce and other goods were on hand to help Selma residents affected by the tornado. This is the first of several mobile food pantries the Beacon Center plans to bring to Selma to continue their support of Selma residents as they recover from the tornado. The next mobile pantry will be Friday, February 3. 

The need for a food pantry came after Roy Salisbury, who is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, spent last week helping a Selma resident cleanup debris and the pair saw someone digging in the trash for groceries. 

“I reached out to my fraternity brother, Richard Williams, and he answered the call with the mobile pantry,” he said. 

More than 300 households were reached during the mobile pantry on Friday as cars lined the street for hours to get a carload of groceries. One hundred cars were served in the first 40 minutes of the drive and they hit more than 200 by 2:20 p.m.

“We are committing to doing more and more pantries,” said Pastor Richard Williams of Metropolitan United Methodist Church. “When someone’s pantry is wiped out it takes a while to build it back up, and we want to help them do that so they don’t have to choose between that and buying things such as medicine.”

State Sen. Rob Stewart served at the mobile food pantry helping direct traffic. 

“Historic First Baptist Church on MLK has been a beacon of civil rights,” he said. “They have been feeding people every day since the disaster. One of the things we have to continue to do is solve food insecurity and today, we have fresh fruit, fresh produce and food from the people at Metropolitan. Our people are budget stretched with many people paying for hotels while they are awaiting FEMA and their insurance companies.”

Just down the road on Broad Street, The Knights & Orchids Society and Hometown Organizing Project were busy loading supplies to take to the Beloit and Orrville communities. 

“As we support those affected by this recent devastation, it helps our entire community know that by coming together we can all make a positive difference,” said Jennine Bell, co-director of TKO Society.  “We’ve been providing those in need with water, hot meals, diapers and baby essentials, as well as shelter. Other local businesses and organizations are in this with us, doing all that they can as well. So even in times like this, it just goes to show that Selma is not only home to those who have great strength, but great hope and a deep sense of community.”

TKO Society will deliver a truckload of supplies to the Beloit Community Center at 11 a.m., on Saturday, January 21. Supplies include diapers, wipes, baby food, pull-ups, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, snacks, and more. 

Warren Tidwell, community resilience organizer at Hometown Organizing Project, joined in helping TKO Society as part of their disaster response, but has also been assessing damage and needs across the state. 

“Hometown Organizing has been in every county hit by the tornadoes,” Tidwell said. 

He emphasized the importance of long-term recovery help for Selma and other rural areas impacted by the tornadoes.

Tidwell said he has spent the week assessing the needs across Alabama so that his organization can work to best support the needs of the communities. 

“There is a lot of help going on now and that’s great,” Tidwell said. “But there will be a long-term need for help and there is a need to maintain that energy. Our organization will be second responders and will be here for the long term working in rural communities to ensure their recovery.” 

Stewart said there is a huge need for cleaning up trees on private property, baby formula, diapers, shovels, rakes, snacks, and bottled water. 

City Council President Billy Young said that the major goal right now is to make sure that Selma residents’ immediate needs are met. 

He said there is a large need for tarps to help residents cover their homes until repair work can be completed to help prevent further damage. 

“There is a need for hygiene products and blankets and pillows,” he said “A lot of people don’t have bedding and some are trying to stay at their homes.”

Young said anyone who has access to chainsaws, there is a huge need for help with cleanup. 

“We need their expertise,” he said. 

Young said those who are able to help with cleanup can contact one of the two command centers at the Dallas County Courthouse Annex or at the George Evans Reception Building. 

“Of course, they can contact any church, as well,” he said.

Young was thankful for the outpouring of support to Selma. 

“We are a community of nonprofits and churches and they are the heart of our community,” he said. “Love is an action, and we are being shown love through these demonstrations of love. Disaster really puts things into perspective for you.” 

“This will be a long, yet persistent recovery long after the cameras are gone,” Stewart said. 

 

 

 

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