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Poarch Tribe Donates $500,000 to Tornado Relief

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When tornadoes cut a deadly swathe through northwestern Alabama last month, the Poarch Creek Band of Creek Indians Tribe (Muskogee) stood ready to help. Now they have stepped up with a $500,000 donation to tornado relief efforts in addition to deploying their personnel to support the cleanup.

“I think everyone who has seen the pictures of the destruction caused by the tornadoes that struck our State wants to help any way that they can,” said Tribal Chairman Buford L. Rolin in a statement. “We hope this donation will help begin to ease some of the suffering of our neighbors. This is the first of what we want to do to help, and we look forward to continue to work with relief agencies on the ground in the affected areas.”

The Poarch are located in the southeastern part of the state, and the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation was unscathed. Tribal Council members toured the damaged region, came back and voted to allocate the monies from the tribe’s ongoing Planned Giving Campaign.

Funds are being split between several agencies, the tribe said: The American Red Cross’s Birmingham and Tuscaloosa chapters will each receive $50,000; $100,000 will go to the state’s Emergency Relief Fund, and $300,000 will be put into the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Disaster Relief Fund “to assist in additional disaster relief efforts that will be distributed according to local needs throughout the affected areas,” the statement said.

Besides feeling empathy for their stricken state, the Poarch well remember the aftermath of hurricanes Ivan and Dennis and the help they received from the Red Cross and other agencies, Tribal Emergency Management Director April Sells recalled in the tribe’s statement.

“We had so many people in the area without food, water, electricity, or ice,” she said. “Thanks to the Red Cross, we were able to feed everyone in the community twice a day after the storm and take care of their basic needs. We are thrilled to be able to give back to that organization and others who are helping families who have lost so much.”

There is no shortage of work to be done. Emergency Management Agency officials in Jefferson County, the area most affected by the more than 100 tornadoes, identified 5,700 damaged or deestroyed structures, which included 4,800 homes, agency spokesman Mark Kelly told the Birmingham News. Rubble cleanup alone will cost $260 million, county EMA Director Allen Knipher told the newspaper, plus the cost of cleaning up other debris, and rebuilding.

“We feel for the victims of this disaster and want to do anything we can to help,” said Robert McGhee, tribal council treasurer and governmental relations adviser. “Immediately after the tornadoes hit, the tribe’s emergency management response teams were dispatched to the area to help with disaster relief. The tribal council hopes this donation will be another way the tribe can continue to assist Alabamians [in weather] this disaster. And as efforts to rebuild begin, we will continue to do what we can to aid families as they start anew.”