May 18, 2011  

John Zippert - 205 652 9676

Update on relief efforts to assist victims
of Tornadoes in West Alabama

Relief efforts are in process...You can help

May 18, 2011

Memo to: To the Friends and Supporters of the Federation

From: John Zippert, Director of Program Operations

Immediately after the tornados of April 15 and 27, 2011, the Federation has been working to make its Rural Training and Research Center (RTRC) near Epes, Alabama as a staging area for relief and recovery efforts. We have focused our work on small, in some cases isolated, rural communities in the Alabama Black Belt counties surrounding Tuscaloosa to the south and west. We have also served some neighboring areas in east Mississippi. Click here for the original report of damage and here for photos.

A report compiled by Ms. Debra Eatman and other members of our RTRC staff in Epes follows which lists some of the groups that have provided volunteers and supplies for our work appears below. The report also details the communities (rural villages) that we have reached and served with these supplies. We have had over 20 volunteers that stayed at our RTRC facilities for varying periods of time from one day to a week. We have served more than 400 rural families with food, clothes, and other necessities since we began this effort at the end of April.

We intend to continue in this relief phase for the rest of the month but we are already looking to the recovery phase when we will work on the more long range issues of recovery and developing more permanent and lasting housing and community development solutions. We are also looking into making our RTRC into a more permanent disaster response center for the Alabama Black Belt.

We are still in need of funds, food (non-perishable), toiletries, personal care items, baby food and diapers, cleaning kits, towels, linens, furniture, building materials, generators and other supplies. We also need volunteers to help organize supplies as they come in and help to transport them to outlying communities. We need some volunteers to help with record keeping and data base management to assure that all funds and supplies are accurately accounted for and fairly distributed to families and communities in need. You may contact the Federation through our website: or directly at P. O. Box 95; Epes, Alabama 35460; phone: 205/652-9676.


Tornado Disaster Relief and Recovery

Report for April 28 to May 15, 2011

April 27, 2011, vastly changed the lives as well as the landscape for scores of Alabamians as a large portion of the State took direct hits from numerous tornados.  April 28, 2011 the Federation of Southern Cooperatives set into place its disaster relief and recovery plan to assist their membership in particular and all other individuals and families whose lives were touched by the storm.  The Federation was in hopes that the organization would be able to access relief supplies on a timely basis as other organizations but that was not to be.  With supplies coming in slowly and in small amounts the Federation switched gears and went into a type of strategic planning mode to determine how to better serve individuals in very hard hit, rural, underserved populations in counties which had been declared disasters areas. 

In this process of strategizing several things became very clear: (1) there were pockets of areas in the Black Belt that are extremely rural, and seriously economically depressed.  These communities are in danger of getting left out of the process of assistance; (2) because of the economic situation in most of these rural communities, individuals would not be able to get out of the community to various supply relief hubs to pick up relief supplies; (3) there is a need to find contact persons in each individual community that would be able to assist Federation staff to get into these communities to deliver supplies; (4) create a type of map to get to these areas and (4) when relief start to flow into the Federation get them out of the door as fast as they came in.  Of course the latter would take volunteers to be able to pack supply boxes and assist in the delivery of these supplies.

With these goals and objectives in mind the staff of the Federation begins to compile a contact list of individuals in hard hit very rural communities, with the assistance of three volunteers from Louisiana.  This list is continually growing and making it apparent that getting supplies into these communities is critical.  A couple of reasons why:  1.  Individuals in these communities do not have any form of transportation, whether it is from loss of a vehicle from the storms or not having a vehicle at all.

So, the strategy to get supplies into rural areas has proven to be the right decision.  Because some of the things the Federation has learned is there are individuals in large rural pockets did not realize that they could get any kind of assistance; they did not know who or what FMEA was and had not seen or heard of the Red Cross and some were even without food.


Initially, relief supplies were very slow coming in to the RTRC.  Derrick Evans of Turkey Creek, Mississippi, stopped by the Federation’s office on Tuesday, May 3rd to offer his assistance in our relief efforts.  When he discovered that the Federation had received a very small amount of relief supplies, he immediately put out a notice to his network about the Federation and how we were not receiving supplies.  This notice also included a phone call to Mr. John Bebee of the Coast Guard and a high-ranking official in FEMA who deals with homeland security.  Mr. Bebee in turn made a personal visit to the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center on Thursday, May 5th to ascertain the capacity of the Center to house relief supplies.  Mr. Bebee also brought with him one of the largest relief shipments we had received at that point.  At this point volunteers and staff begin to put together relief boxes and took them to the first community we determined had the greatest need.  After Mr. Evans and Mr. Beebe’s visit supplies have begun to come into the Center.


To date, the following volunteers and/or groups have come to the Center to assist in relief efforts and/or sent supplies:

            Federation of Childcare Centers of Alabama (FOCAL) Montgomery

            Immacident Hearts, Turkey Creek, MS

Trinity United Methodist Church, Gainesville, FL

            Gulf Coast Guard, Navarre, FL

            Canterberry UMC, Hoover, AL

            Derrick Evans , Turkey Creek, MS

            Bridge the Gulf , Marrero, Louisiana

            UMC, Grand Bay, AL

            GBM, Birmingham, AL

            Red Cross, Birmingham, AL

            FEMA (John Bebee), Florida

            South Bay Community Alliance, Coden, AL

            Winchester Carton, Eutaw

            NAPS, Oakwood College

            Prystup Packaging Products, Livingston, AL

            Judson College, Marion, AL

            Blackwell Family, Grand Bay, AL




Flatwood, assisted
Vienna, assisted


Bluff Port , assisted
Tishabee, assisted
Forkland, assisted


Lisman, assisted
Yantley, assisted


Faunsdale, assisted


Sawyerville, minor assistance
Frisco City


Scooba – Sunflower Community (East Mississippi)

This list of counties and communities is by no means exhaustive but is a brief compilation of counties and communities where the Federation has made contact with individuals who have either not been served at all or have been severely underserved.  Efforts are continuing to locate communities and contacts in these areas and to get supplies out to them as soon as possible.  Word of mouth has also been very helpful in helping to locate “lost villages” in rural remote areas.

To date the Federation has gotten relief supplies to over 400 individual families within the above name communities and counties.  We do continue to have a waiting list of communities where we are currently preparing to enter into this next week.

The Federation feels that this particular strategy has been beneficial to storm victims in extreme rural communities where multiple tornadoes touched down.

The Federation needs the support and assistance of its members, partners and friends in making this tornado response meaningful, sensitive and successful. You may contact us and donate funds and other materials designated for disaster relief. through our website at The Federation’s Fiscal and Accounting Office is located at 2769 Church Street, East Point, GA 30344; phone 404/765-0991; Ralph Paige, Executive Director; Cornelius Blanding, Field Director; Ms. Jackie Ward, Executive Assistant.

You can also directly contact the Federation Rural Training and Research Center, 575 Federation Road (P. O. Box 95) in Epes, Alabama 35460; or by calling 205/652-9676 or e-mail at Ask for - John Zippert, Director (cell 205/657-0273); Ms. Debra Eatman, Logistics Coordinator; Ms. Pam Madzima, Co-op Development Program; Osa Idehen, Outreach Coordinator.

Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 44th year,  assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.