Former North Alabamian Donna Quigley had been watching media coverage in Georgia of the deadly Alabama tornadoes since they tore through the state April 27.
When she and husband Ralph heard North Alabama victims might not be receiving what they needed because help was going to the more severely damaged southern Alabama city of Tuscaloosa, they took action.
They called Chuck Juhl, a member of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Church of Christ that Donna had once attended. Juhl got the word out to other Churches of Christ in central and northern Iowa. Originally from Florence, Donna had lived in Madison for a number of years and was now living in Georgia, so she still knew people here in North Alabama.
“Ralph called us Friday morning (April 29) and said there were people in North Alabama in need of help who are without power,” said Juhl, one of several church members who drove four vehicles loaded with $14,000 worth of emergency food, batteries, water and cash to Athens Wednesday.
“I got ahold of Jimmy Stroud at Limestone Chapel Funeral Home and he gave me a list of things people needed,” Juhl said. “We sent out a quick newsletter via email for people to donate. Then, other congregations started doing the same.”
Churches of Christ in Center Point, Marion, Cedar Falls-Waterloo, Oelwein and Marshalltown joined in the drive.
“We started gathering the items Saturday and Sunday and decided Monday noon would be the cutoff,” Juhl said.
As the goods rolled in, church members started wondering how they were going to get it all to Alabama. They considered using a small U-haul truck but decided that would be too expensive. So, they loaded up two minivans donated by Junge Motors of Cedar Rapids, a truck and a Suburban and headed south. In pouring rain, the convoy arrived Tuesday in Nashville and then headed to Athens.
They arrived around noon with about $14,000 worth of supplies, such as food, batteries, paper towels and plates, cleaning supplies, mops, brooms and a power washer. They also brought cash and went shopping at Walmart, Sam’s Club and Harbor Freight in Huntsville.
“We used it to buy tarps and spent all we could except for a few dollars for people to buy ice,” Juhl said. “We went through the flood of 2008 in Iowa, so we know that needs will change as time passes.”
When eastern Iowa rivers flooded in June of that year, thousands of homes and businesses were flooded in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and surrounding towns.
“What I remember from 2008 is that you can send money, but people are encouraged when other people show up,” said Juhl, who owns a title company in Vinton. “You try to encourage people to survive and move on.”
Enduring a flood also taught eastern Iowans how best to respond to a disaster.
“We learned from the flood there are immediate needs — getting people fed — and then the need shifts to cleanup and repair,” said Juhl, who knows what it's like to lose a home.
“My wife and I lost our home to a fire in 1998,” he said. “You just don’t realize until you go through it how much of a loss you feel.”
Like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, the Iowa benefactors — including Juhl, Larry Stock, Kim Abrams, Sandi Tull, Glen and Mary Davis and Laura Lynne Saunders — were here and gone before you waked. They expected to be back in Iowa Wednesday or today. The memory of their generosity will remain.