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Storms in the South

May 3, 2011

From the Federation of Southern Cooperatives

Tornadoes strike the Federation’s Training Center 
and Surrounding Rural Communities: Relief efforts are in process…You can help
The Federation will offer it’s Training Center in Epes, Alabama to house volunteers and others assisting those who have been displaced from the tornadoes. Assistance to devastated communities will also include food, water, clothing, equipment, supplies, to Tuscaloosa and surrounding rural communities, impacted by the storms (we used our facility in a similar way during the early weeks after Katrina in August/September 2005). Financial assistance is critical to offer this much needed support. Please consider donating on the Federation’s website to help with this much needed assistance. Below also find a fact sheet about the impact of these devastating tornadoes.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF or Federation) is a regional, non-profit, IRS 501c 3 organization that provides information, technical assistance, training, resources and advocacy to a membership of 20,000 low income families working in cooperatives, credit unions and other self-help community based associations across the rural South. Organized in 1967, we are in our 44th year of operation.
A primary focus of the Federation is on Black farmers and landowners as well as other family farmers struggling to maintain their land, livelihood, culture and communities. The Federation utilizes the cooperative form of democratic economic organization to help people collectively address their problems and uplift their communities.
The Federation’s membership owns and operates a Rural Training and Research Center on 850 acres of land, near Epes, Alabama in rural Sumter County. The Center is halfway between Meridian, Mississippi and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, five miles from the Epes-Gainesville Exit – No. 23 on Interstate 59/20. The center has a dormitory (that sleeps 72 in bunk beds – 4 to a room), a commercial kitchen, auditorium, classrooms, offices and a demonstration farm and timber program.
The Federation has been active over the years in disasters facing our membership including: droughts, floods, hurricanes and now tornados. Most recently we have been active in developing relief and recovery programs among farmers and fishers in the rural and maritime communities across the Gulf Coast. Besides delivering emergency funds, food, clothes, fuel, animal feed and other supplies in the aftermath of Katrina, Rita and other storms the Federation has also developed and is working to implement cooperative development strategies for housing, seafood and community development in depressed and neglected communities across the Gulf Coast and rural South.
We also see farmers, landowners, fishermen and other indigenous community leaders as the “first responders” to natural disasters and as community advocates to insure that smaller rural communities are not left behind in the rebuilding efforts of Federal, state and local officials.
Since mid-April, the Federation finds itself once again in the heart of a disaster impact area. There have been several devastating tornados to hit in and around our Epes Rural Training Center over the past two weeks including the monster storm on April 27 that decimated nearby Tuscaloosa and also affected many smaller rural communities in the Alabama Black Belt counties of Sumter, Greene, Hale, Marengo and Choctaw.
Fact Sheet
In response to these tornados, the Federation is committed to a strategy and plan of action outlined below:
  • a. We are reactivating our Federation Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes, Alabama, as a staging and supply storage area for assistance, i.e., food, water, clothing, equipment, supplies, to Tuscaloosa and surrounding rural communities, impacted by the storms (we used our facility in a similar way during the early weeks after Katrina in August/September 2005).
  • b. We are making our dormitory and kitchen available (we have 60+ bunk beds) for people coming from outside the area to work on relief and recovery efforts in Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas. The Center is located 50 miles south of Tuscaloosa and provides easy access to these areas, without imposing on people in the direct impact area.
  • c. We will be concentrating our direct emergency assistance to families in small rural communities in the Alabama Black Belt counties surrounding Tuscaloosa:
• Sumter: the towns of Geiger and Panola; Geiger was hit twice by tornados on April 15 and 27; of the 154 houses in the town – 75 have been damaged or destroyed; two churches were damaged
• Greene: the towns of Tishabee/Forkland were also hit twice; 8 trailers and homes destroyed, 20 others damaged; two churches Morning Star and First United Baptist Churches are ruined. In Mantua/Snoddy: 6 homes and trailers destroyed; 20 more damaged
• Marengo: Jefferson community – 20 houses severely damaged
• Hale: Sawyerville community – 4 fatalities, many homes and trailers damaged and destroyed
• Choctaw: Lisman/Yantley/Pennington – houses damaged
  • d. At the Federation’s Rural Training Center, we sustained wind damage, including high-tunnel greenhouse collapsed ($7,000), shingle, siding and gutter damage to buildings ($2,000), food spoiled in cafeteria due to 3 days without electricity ($1,000) and cross fencing for goat demonstration herd destroyed by falling trees ($ 2,000); all of which will need to be repaired or replaced.
  • e. Community training and advocacy for community residents and leaders in their rights and benefits under state and Federal programs like FEMA, SBA, USDA, and others, as well as Red Cross, United Way, and others. We found after Katrina that community leaders needed training and instruction in the details of program regulations and filling out paperwork to receive promised benefits from public and private agencies, as well as counteracting racial discrimination by agencies and programs involved in disaster relief. We plan to offer this type of training as soon as feasible and continuing over the rebuilding period.
  • f. Utilizing cooperatives and credit unions in making the recovery efforts more inclusive, democratic, equitable and effective. Also learning from the disaster response experience to be more prepared and effective for the next disaster.
  • 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’s Rural Training and Research Center
575 Federation Road (P. O. Box 95)
Epes, Alabama 35460

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