Julie Pompa knew how fortunate she was.

Her house is on the outer edge of the main path of a tornado that swept through the west side of Abilene on May 18. She got some roof damage and is living with her mother for the time being, along with her children. It could have been much worse, and was for a number of Abilenians. Still, roof damage and being displaced, even with a place to go, is not fun and the expenses mount up.

“I just needed that extra boost,” Pompa said, as she waited to get the food that had been packed for her by volunteers who turned out Saturday, June 1, to offer continuing aid in the aftermath of the tornado.

Interested in helping? Call Mary Cooksey with United Way/211 Call for Help at 325-665-4160 to see if volunteers are still needed.

Julie and her daugther Jocelyn, one and a half, were among the small number of people who stopped by the tornado recovery and relief center Saturday in the gym of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, 701 S. Pioneer Drive. Volunteers and professional emergency personnel plan to man the center until June 8 if needed.


In the top left photo, Julie Pompa and her daughter, Jocelyn, wait to get the food provided to them by volunteers and professionals staffing the tornado resource and recovery center set up in the gym at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church, 701 S. Pioneer Drive. Stacks of bottled water, emergency hygiene packs, gloves and other items needed for cleaning up after a natural disaster are available at center. Photos by Loretta Fulton

Shortly after the tornado did its damage early Saturday morning, May 18, Pioneer Drive Baptist Church stepped up, offering its parking lot as a staging area for first responders and volunteers. Within a couple of days, the process had been moved into the gym. Professionals and volunteers with a number of organizations, such as BCFS, the Salvation Army, United Way, and others are showing up 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day to assist. They are tasked with assisting people who don’t have insurance and need access to resources.

“We have all different levels of expertise,” said Steve Hannemann, one of 10 BCFS personnel in town to help.

Two of the 10 workers are full-time professionals and eight are reserve case managers.

“When we have a need, they call them in,” Hannemann said of the reservists.

BCFS got involved at the resquest of the city and local organizations. While in Abilene, BCFS personnel are charged with three areas of assistance:

  1. Organize assessments teams
  2. Do case management and write individual recovery plans
  3. Serve as an incident management team, coordinating recovery efforts and documentation

“We’re finding out what the needs are,” Hannemann said, “and then sending them to the local folks.”

BCFS Health and Human Services division has an office in Abilene and also staffs a home for youths in transition. BCFS added an emergency management division in 2005, Hannemann said.

Each day, a situational report is prepared based on the previous day’s numbers and given to community leaders. As of Saturday, June 1, 21 families had received $27,412 in cash assistance, said Mary Cooksey, program director for the United Way’s 211 A Call for Help division.

For Cooksey and many others, both professionals and volunteers, it has been nonstop activity since the early morning of May 18. She got a call at 7:30 that morning, requesting her presence at the city’s emergency management operations in the basement of City Hall. At 10, she was in the parking lot across the street from Pioneer Drive Baptist Church with a trunk load of water and Gatorade.

“That’s where we were staging,” Cooksey said.

From there, Cooksey and others set up temporarily in the parking lot of the Abilene/Taylor County Law Enforcement Center before moving into the PDBC gym. One of the services Cooksey’s team provided immediately was giving additional vouchers and grocery store gift cards to first responsders to hand out as needed.

Almost from the beginning, the Community Foundation of Abilene and the United Way joined forces for a smooth operation, with the CFA in charge of overseeing donations and the United Way organizing the distribution of funds.

“It’s been really impressive,” Cooksey said.


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