Rector Church Reaches Out to Help

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Volunteers gather after loading the Convoy of Hope bob truck at Rector First General Baptist Church

Members of the First General Baptist Church of Rector joined with other volunteers within the community to assist families and individuals affected by devastating spring storms and tornados in late April and early May. The church gathered food, clothing and other personal items for distribution to those in need, and through a partnership with Convoy of Hope, helped those much needed goods find their way to affected areas across the heartland.

The First General Baptist Church shipment was collected by volunteers with Convoy of Hope on May 8. The items were loaded into a large bob truck, brought to Rector from Convoy of Hope's headquarters in Springfield, Mo., for distribution. The large truck, emblazoned with "Convoy for Hope" along its cargo area, transformed into a life-changing instrument with the donations collected in Rector, becoming a beacon of relief and support for those attempting desperately to find some semblance of their normal lives in the midst of upheaval caused by these unrepentant storms.

James Neely of Convoy of Hope met with members of all ages at First General Baptist Church, which had a strong contingent of volunteers present to assist in loading the supplies. Neely, an experienced truck driver of 25 years, has been active in Convoy of Hope for the past six years. As a volunteer, he has witnessed the impact of tornados and other natural disasters up close, and knows the importance these collected items will have for those who have lost their homes, possessions and even loved ones.

"I've seen the difference these donations can make in people's lives," Neely said. "It's impossible to put into words what this will mean to people who desperately need it. I appreciate the efforts of the church and the community for doing this because I know this will make a big difference in people's lives."

The church contacted Convoy of Hope, whose volunteers provide bob trucks and semis to collect and distribute donated relief items throughout America and the world, to offer assistance in light of the late March storms which ravaged portions of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

"We wanted to help any way we could," First General Baptist pastor Brad Gilbert said. "We thought this would be a good way to do so, and we had volunteers here who really took to it. It was a community effort. We had a lot of people outside the church donate items. I want to thank everyone who helped make this possible."

Gilbert noted the efforts of Mary Lynne Householder and Jade Simpson in organizing drop-offs and collecting items for distribution.

Another shipment of goods departed the church on the same day, with member Ron Benson hauling a trailer filled with backpacks, children's books and other supplies gathered at Rector Elementary School, directly to Vilonia Elementary School. Vilonia, located in central Arkansas, was one of the communities hit hardest by the storm, as an EF4 tornado leveled areas of the town and resulted in several deaths. The collection of books, backpacks and other items was an effort to help the youngest members of the community find some sense of normal life in the aftermath of nature's fury.

The church began its efforts with the Vilonia and Mayflower communities in mind. These communities received immediate support, and relief organizers encouraged the church to provide its collection of donations for other locations or in preparation for future needs.

"It will definitely be put to good use," Neely said of the supplies gathered for Convoy of Hope. "And for the items they're sending to the school, that's something people don't always think of that will mean a lot to those kids. This is a small church and a small town, but I can see there are big hearts in Rector."

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