Dallas Nonprofit Responding to Local and National Disasters

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas Baptist Men for more than 50 years has shown up at disasters around the state and country to provide relief for people after earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

by David Tarrant, The Dallas Morning News / October 22, 2019
This Oct. 20, 2019 image made from video by Twitter user @AthenaRising shows the tornado in Rockwall, Texas. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down in Dallas on Sunday night, causing structural damage and knocking out electricity to thousands. AP

(TNS) — In the past year, David Talbott has crisscrossed the United States from one disaster to another.

As a volunteer for Texas Baptist Men, he’s helped clean up tornado-ravaged communities in Connecticut, flooded towns in Tennessee and the storm-damaged hamlet of Alto, in East Texas.

Monday morning, the 66-year-old McKinney resident didn’t have far to go — only about 20 miles down Central Expressway — to find a place in need of his services.

Stillmeadow Drive in Richardson, a quiet suburban enclave, with well-kept lawns and mature shade trees, took a direct hit during Sunday night’s storms. The tornado uprooted several trees, snapped others in half, ripped shingles off roofs and casually tossed a van into a front yard.

Monday afternoon, Talbott paused a moment from cutting tree limbs with his gas-powered chainsaw. Chips of wood stuck to his shirt and jeans as he pulled off his gloves, ear protection muffs and a red helmet.

“This was a big one,” he said, surveying the damage.

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas Baptist Men for more than 50 years has shown up at disasters around the state and across the country to provide relief for people suffering hardship after earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.

“Texas Baptist Men has responded to every major natural disaster in this country since 1967,” said John Hall, a spokesman for the group. “We provide help and hope,” he said, by sending trained volunteers to the aid of communities reeling from disasters.

“This time the tornado ripped a hole in our own community,” Hall said. “I mean, these are our neighbors.”

Monday, about a dozen of the group’s volunteers could be found on Stillmeadow Drive, many of them clearing downed tree limbs. The grinding sound of chainsaws filled the air as some neighbors huddled together to talk or watch the volunteers work.

“They’re from Denton County, they’re from Collin County, they’re from Dallas County,” Hall said of those who volunteered to work Monday. “Even before the storms had finished, we started mobilizing, calling our teams to see who could respond fast.”

Talbott had just gone to bed about 11 p.m., when he got a call telling him to report to duty the first thing in the morning. He and the other volunteers arrived in the neighborhood about 8 a.m. Many of them are retirees, like Talbott, who said he worked in the oil business. They stood out with their distinctive yellow T-shirts that read Disaster Relief on the back with the group’s logo.

Talbott’s neighbor got him interested in Texas Baptist Men. He quickly found that he liked working with his hands and volunteering for a good cause. He then recruited his brother, Tim, who also showed up Monday to help on Stillmeadow Drive.

Next door to where Talbott worked on a downed red oak, a neighbor surveyed the scene. Jay Weesner has lived on Stillmeadow for 22 years. He and his wife have heard plenty of sirens over the years, he said. But they’ve managed to avoid the worst until now.

“We didn’t dodge the bullet last night,” he said.

He and his wife had been watching the Cowboys game Sunday night when a friend texted them to take cover. After donning sneakers and bicycle helmets, the couple took shelter in their bathroom. Moments later, the storm split the oak in their front yard oak and swiped part of their roof. Weesner still remembers the sound of the tree cracking and the wind whooshing, much like the familiar freight train sound often associated with tornadoes.

An art teacher, Weesner watched Talbott and his team taking apart the tree lying in his neighbor’s yard. “They work fast,” he said, expressing his gratitude. “We definitely needed them.”

Down the street, another neighbor expressed her gratitude in the form of food.

Amanda Pritchard and her husband, Scott Geddie, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers in their front yard. They also provided bottles of water for the volunteers.

The Texas Baptist Men are using her church, First Baptist Richardson, as a staging site for supplies and equipment and a hospitality center for volunteers.

Pritchard said she was one of the first to call Texas Baptist Men and ask for help. Even though her home emerged from the storm relatively unscathed, her street was a precarious tangle of downed tree limbs.

With power out, it made sense to fire up the grill and provide food for neighbors and volunteers.

“We wanted to do something to raise the spirits because last night there was a lot of tears and darkness,” she said.

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©2019 The Dallas Morning News

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