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Small Church with a Big Heart Helps Clarksdale, Mississippi Recover

Photo by Carroll Moore
Photo by Carroll Moore

One day while watching the news, Deanna Denney saw the flooding devastation in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

There was water in the streets, water in their homes and people in waders and canoes trying to get out. Denney wanted to help. So the following Sunday, March 20, she stood up before the church that she has been a member of for 15 years, Taylor United Methodist, and asked them to donate money to make flood buckets.

“God just put it on my heart to say something to people,” Denney said. “We’ve got to help them. We just have to. We take up collections for other things and here we have our neighbors 60 miles away and they’re in a lot of trouble. And everybody just truly dug deep.”

Taylor United Methodist Church (TUMC) donated $500 and the congregation came up with $750 within that church service. For a small church whose congregation is about 60 members, it was a lot.

Pastor of TUMC, Eddie Willis, said, “I looked around and said ‘You church-goers are being what the church is intended to be. I don’t even need to preach a sermon today.’ I did, but really you are the sermon, because you are doing something beyond our walls and windows. It makes me so proud that it mobilized that quickly. The offering was above and beyond our typical offering, so they gave but then they gave again.”

“I was shocked,” Denney said. “I was in the nursery that day, so I wasn’t there when they actually took up the money. But when my daughter-in-law told me how much was collected, I burst out into tears. I was thinking that maybe we could make ten flood buckets or five flood buckets. But to be able to do twenty was totally awesome.”

The flood buckets cost about $55 to make. Each five-gallon bucket holds: scouring pads, sponges, scrub brush, cleaning towels, household cleaner, disinfectant soap, clothespins, clothesline, dust masks, work gloves, heavy-duty trash bags, and a bottle of insect repellent. 

Denney’s husband and son packed all twenty buckets and by Monday, March 28 another church member, Carroll Moore, and her mother took the supplies to Clarksdale. But, one bucket was not loaded up. Willis is also campus minister for the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation. One of his students is from Clarksdale and his home was flooded with four feet of water. So, the church decided to hold one bucket for him and his family.

“This is the least we can do, to give them the tools to try and start again,” Denney said. “We’re all neighbors, God tells us to love our neighbors. It doesn’t matter if they’re across the street or across the world—I truly believe that we need to help. And it doesn’t matter who it goes to. We don’t care who they go to. As long as they need them and it will help them.”

This Saturday, Willis’ campus ministry will be sending a group of seven students to Clarksdale to work and next Saturday 12 students will be going.

“Taylor ignited a spark,” Willis said. “It has inspired my college students to go and actually be there physically. They may actually be the ones to open the buckets that we put together and use the cleaning supplies to clean the mold and mildew. I hope it’s a catalyst. It’s just the very first step.”

To donate or volunteer, please visit https://clarksdale.recovers.org.

Ellen Whitaker is a print journalism major at Meek School of Journalism and New Media. She can be reached at ewhitake@go.olemiss.edu.

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