THAYER -- The First Baptist Church Christian Activity Center (CAC) was used as a Disaster Relief Shelter during and after the Jan. 27 ice storm that devastated the Mammoth Spring/Oregon County area. The shelter started with a loaf of bread, a package of lunch meat and some peanut butter.
Bro. David and Linda Lindgens and the members of the First Baptist Church said they would like to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone in the Thayer community that helped at the relief center. "Many of you gave your hearts, your hands and your time and possessions. Your contributions will never be forgotten," Church Secretary Donna Martin said.
Church members said a special thanks goes to the Thayer School System for supplying food to their shelter. "The food was incredible! The hands that prepared the food are truely among our heroes," Bro. Lindgens said.
Lindgens said the Chapel Hill Baptist Church opened up a second shelter to accommodate the needs of the community and that was greatly appreciated. "Because of their willingness to help, many lives were touched. The First Assembly of God, St. Paul's United Methodist Church as well as the Mammoth Spring Church of Christ played a key role in helping us run the shelter smoothly," Lindgens said.
Many church members said words cannot express their gratitude to Mark Arnold and the Emergency Management Team, Thayer Police Department and the Thayer Fire and Rescue Department. "They worked tirelessly to take care of the citizens of our community," he said.
The pastor said a wonderful team of Red Cross workers came and helped the church members manage the shelter. "They worked with us, taught us and encouraged us. We thank them for their tireless effort," Martin said.
Martin who has been the secretary at the church for many years began to worry about elderly church members when the local weather forecast Jan. 26 started giving several inches of ice for the area. "The idea at the beginning of this was to provide a warm place for church members that needed it," Martin said.
They not only did that, the church opened up its doors to people that did not belong to the church in Thayer, Mammoth Spring and other parts of Oregon County.
"We just started having people show up at our door. They would say we have no food, we have no heat. There is no way we could have turned them away," Lindgens said.
The CAC sheltered 133 people from 5:30 p.m. Jan. 27 to Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.
The CAC served 1,400 meals during that time period and that is a story in its self.
That is where the Thayer School District and Head Cook Connie Ward came into play. The school had no way to keep their food frozen and they were going to lose it. Ward used the food from the school and cooked three meals a day from Wednesday morning until Saturday at noon when the Red Cross took over.
"We were eating cold cereal donated by the Division of Family Services, when, in walked Connie. She just stepped up and started working," Martin said.
The shelter fed police officers, emergency management personal, utility workers and tree trimming workers as well as those staying in the shelter. Many others donated time, money and materials.
Jamie Hedden, owner of Kiddie Korral Day Care and Anita Gaines owner of the Total Learning Center Day Care both in Thayer, donated diapers and needed items for little ones.
Randy Ward put a satellite on the church roof and the shelter had a small super bowl party and watched the super bowl.
The Oregon County Health Department helped out with nursing needs. They also supplied the two generators for both shelters. The gym floor in the CAC is big. The fire department brought a flood light that would light the gym floor. Pappy from the Spring River Dipper donated ice cream and Hawg Wild Pizza offered to donate pizza but there was plenty of food and it was not needed.
The Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief Center supplied the shelter with three mobile shower units and people from the community donated everything from diapers to money, paper products and towels and wash cloths.
Bro. David and Linda have been at the church since June, coming from Texas. "We had never dealt with an emergency of this magnitude. I feel like the community pulled together and we could not have done it without them," he said.
What do you do in a shelter when there is two to three inches of ice on the ground and very little electricity? Why, you play basketball. There were board games and coloring books from the kids. They played card games and drank a lot of coffee.
"We visited alot and made alot of new friends. It was hard to say good-bye," Martin said.
Lindgens said alot was learned from the shelter experience. "We need to get a plan and coordinate with the city and other emergency personal in case anything like this ever happens again. This time the Lord provided the way," he said.
"If we had been prepared, a shelter would have been up and running, fully stocked when it was needed. This was very much a learning experience for us. We simply reacted to the needs of the moment," the Lindgens said.