At 87, ‘disaster deacon’ opens his heart — and church — to flooding victims
TULSA, Okla. — Oh, Kenneth Hearrell has stories to tell.…
In recent days, flooding fears rose in the Arkansas towns of Russellville and Dardanelle, which sit across the Arkansas River from each other, about 80 miles northwest of Little Rock.
As volunteers from both communities filled sandbags to help hold back the water, the River Park Church of Christ in Russellville readied its building for use as an American Red Cross evacuation shelter.
David Russell, lead minister for the River Park church, offered this report:
“The two communities are very close as residents from both communities frequently cross the river to work, shop, attend church, etc. They also share access to Lake Dardanelle and the Dardanelle Lock and Dam. On Thursday evening, May 30, the river level at the dam hit a historic high of 45.9 feet, beating the previous record high of 44.1 feet back in 1990.
“Both communities rallied support from its citizens with people from all walks of life volunteering to fill and transport sandbags to help hold the water back. Thursday and Friday, the bridge between the two towns was in jeopardy of closing due to rising waters.
“As everyone braced for the worst, relief came as the waters began to slow and eventually stopped Sunday morning.”
“On Saturday, about 100 homes in the south side of Dardanelle were in jeopardy of flooding due to a broken levee near Holla Bend. Mayor Jimmy Witt of Dardanelle coordinated with local service providers to construct a temporary levee to deter water from entering the community. As everyone braced for the worst, relief came as the waters began to slow and eventually stopped Sunday morning.
“Eight Red Cross volunteers began the work of preparing River Park church’s building for use as a shelter on Friday evening. Members of the Office of Emergency Management delivered a trailer filled with Red Cross supplies, and Russellville Mayor Richard Harris sent additional volunteers to help with the effort. Initially set to handle 25 evacuees, the church was prepared to host as many as 100 or more.
“Even if we had to make other arrangements for Sunday, we saw the higher calling was to be of service to our neighbors. We partner with Jesus to making the world a little more the way it is supposed to be. When disaster strikes, we do that be helping our neighbors.
“Even if we had to make other arrangements for Sunday, we saw the higher calling was to be of service to our neighbors.”
“The River Park church building was specifically built with being a shelter in mind. Besides space to house people, it is equipped with a large kitchen and eight showers. In recent months, the church has housed over 70 people from the Bentonville Church of Christ for the annual Christeens youth conference in Russellville. While the shelter did not end up housing any evacuees from flooding, the showers were a daily need of the National Guard detachment in the area.
“Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort Inc. delivered a semi-truck load of supplies on Monday morning, June 3, to the Dardanelle church. Members of the church, along with support from the community, unloaded the truck into their gym. Supplies included: food boxes that can feed a family of four for a week, baby supplies, blankets, fans, personal care items, bedding, water, cleaning supplies and general recovery items. The church mans the relief station from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday or till the supplies are gone. Mark Alton is the preaching minister for the Dardanelle church.”
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