Tennessee Volunteers Earn the Title of “Minutemen” in Seneca, South Carolina

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Paul Givens – St. Marks UMC Disaster Response

By B. Christ, South Carolina UMC Conference

How do Tennessee “Volunteers” become “Minutemen”? Seneca, South Carolina serves as the backdrop to the landing of an EF3 category Tornado which hit this town on April 13, 2020. Early estimates show at least $250 Million in damages which could take months of recovery efforts.

In the midst of the Corona Virus self-quarantine, the Tennessee UMCOR (United Methodist Community of Relief) Disaster Response Teams of First UMC Church of Cookeville, St. Marks UMC of Murfreesboro, and Tennessee Conference Caney Fork River District became “Minutemen” to this ravaged town from April 16 -22, 2020 by providing instant support. South Carolinians want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Tennessee always had a special place in our young Nation’s history. Tennessee was given the nickname, “Volunteer State” during the War of 1812. Before news of the peace treaty signed in Ghent, Belgium crossed the Atlantic, “Volunteer” soldiers from Tennessee were especially prominent in the January 1815 battle of New Orleans, one of the largest and most decisive battles. During the Civil War, Tennessee soldiers furnished more soldiers for the Confederate Army than any other state other than Virginia.

Furnished with two bobcats and numerous chainsaws, this ten “minutemen” team specializes in the safe removal of trees fallen upon the now precarious rooftops of numerous homes. Working as a well-trained unit, these men toil humbly, silently and steadily to clear over 1,500 trees, some as large as 36” in diameter. Some of the trees were on top of vehicles, some on rooftops. Chainsaws are known as the most dangerous of tools, but donned in hot chaps and head-face gear, and properly sized saws, safety is always the priority. “Accidents happen when we are tired, so we better stop now, and pick up tomorrow”, warned one. Most of these men are over the age of 65, but that didn’t stop them from being able to be ready and able to fight for five days “on a minute’s” notice. Guided by our Lord and Savior’s strength and love, these “Minutemen Volunteers” inspire us.

The beautiful and bountiful campus of Clemson United Methodist Church, having itself suffered roof damage, graciously served as UMCOR’s headquarters during the 2-week long effort. Lead by Senior Pastor Fran Elrod and volunteers Jill Evans and Eddie Drasher, 175 masked volunteers were given twice daily temperature checks after completing initial health questionnaires related to COVID-19 susceptibilities. Shawna Darnall, Assistant Pastor at St Mark’s UMC in Seneca, worked tirelessly in the kitchen with volunteers to nourish and hydrate tired and aching bodies.

Sister United Methodist Churches in Seneca, Ann Hope and St. Mark, were in the center of the disaster “ZONE” and their parking lots were used to feed folks and provided bathrooms all while having no power to the buildings.

Other UMC units are also to be praised. South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Disaster Response Teams mobilized Monday and arrived Tuesday, April 14, 2020, from Spartanburg, Greenwood, Anderson, Columbia Districts, and served the initial reconnaissance team, determining which homes to prioritize with which resources. Mt. Horeb Disaster Response Team of Lexington, SC specialized in tarp repair on damaged roofs.

To our Tennessee “Volunteers”, you all inspire us. Thank you

First UMC Disaster Team of Cookeville, TN and St Mark’s UMC Disaster Team of Murfreesboro, TN
Ken Hunter, Paul Givens, Steve Shoup, Charles Roberts, John Zimmerman, Roland Edwards, William Pollard. and Butch Beasley

“Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you.”
– 3 John 1:5

The work in Seneca has only begun. Our Tennessee “Minutemen” have already been called to more EF3 tornado damage in Chattanooga of their home state. We honor you for your service.