PDA Prepares the Way for New Starts

Leland Presbyterian Church welcomed four members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team on Sunday, October 29, as part of a commissioning ceremony for the church’s recently established disaster recovery volunteer host site as well as for the site’s coordinator.

The host site, called Windward, was established following the devastating F-4 tornado that leveled the Mississippi Delta communities of Rolling Fork and Silver City in March 2023. Over 20 people lost their lives in the storm, and over 70% of the community of Rolling Fork was destroyed. Wind gusts up to 200mph debarked trees, mangled cars, and destroyed homes. 

“Many of our church members went to the Rolling Fork community just hours after the storm to help with rescue efforts and support residents with hot food, water, and supplies,” said Rev. Ann Kelly. “We saw first-hand how horrific the storm damage was to the area. It was heart-breaking.”

Following the tornado, Leland Presbyterian Church also participated in a community wide effort to establish a volunteer housing facility at the local Leland community center. The center housed 40 volunteers from Oklahoma who came to help with debris removal. Following that experience, church members began thinking about what else could be done for the long-term recovery efforts.

“We have this great education building, but it wasn’t being used fully,” said Rev. Ann Kelly. “After the tornado hit, it became clear that the space would be perfect to house long-term volunteers. We reached out to PDA, and they helped us figure out what we needed to convert the space into a host site.”

A hosting grant from PDA was used to purchase mattresses and a separate grant awarded through Volunteer Mississippi was used to retrofit the space with keycode door entries, water stations, plumbing/electrical work, linens, and enhanced wifi.

“PDA seeks to empower local Presbyterians to help their communities recover from disaster. We were eager to come alongside Leland Presbyterian Church to open this volunteer host site” says PDA staff person, Rev. Nell Herring. “We are so proud of the church for engaging in this hard and holy work of disaster recovery and we look forward to witnessing how volunteer efforts help rebuild Rolling Fork.”

Windward can accommodate up to 20 volunteers at a time and provides bathrooms, a shower trailer, meeting spaces, and fully functional kitchen. The host site will be used to house volunteers who come to the area to help with disaster recovery but will also be used to house volunteers who come to help with other community improvement projects. To learn more about Windward or to schedule a volunteer work group, please contact the PDA Call Center at 866-732-6121 or [email protected].