By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
WAVERLY — Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief has been given 200 water heaters to assist homeowners in Waverly who are still trying to recover from major flooding in August.
The hot water heaters, with an estimated value of $100,000, were donated by the A. O. Smith Company, said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“I am extremely grateful to the A. O. Smith Company for the donation of 200 water heaters to the rebuilding efforts in Waverly,” Jones said.
“Their gift will help 200 families get back into their homes after the flood. God has truly blessed with gifts like this one plus the generosity of individuals, churches, associations and corporations that are enabling us to assist so many families to recover,” he added.
The donation came as the result of a relationship that one of the DR volunteers had with someone at the company, said Kaye Thomas, a member of First Baptist Church, Sevierville, who along with her husband, John, have been coordinating volunteer efforts in Waverly since last October.
Company officials contacted them and asked them to give a “pie in the sky” request, Kaye Thomas said. “We asked for 300 and the company gave us 200.”
What’s more, the company was willing to provide both electric and gas heaters in either 30, 40 or 50 gallon sizes, she added.
When we began calling home owners (who Tennessee DR has been assisting with rebuilding efforts) to see what size water heater they needed, they were so encouraged,” Thomas said.
Many of them expected to be back in their homes before Christmas and many were discouraged and ready to give up hope, she observed. The news of the gift of a water heater lifted their spirits, Thomas added.
“This is what grace looks like,” said Scott Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waverly. “We are so grateful for the many businesses and individuals God is using to continue the work in Waverly.”
The excitement continued on Jan. 18 as residents were called to come in and pick up their water heater. “We had two residents who told us they were living in their homes as they were renovating and were having to boil water. “They were so excited and happy.”
After battling freezing temperatures and snow and ice for a few days, Thomas expressed appreciation for the warmer temperature as people came to get their free gift. “It was great to see their smiling faces and celebrate with them,” she said.
By the end of the day, word had spread through the community and nearly all the water heaters had been distributed to residents who needed the units, Thomas said.
Jones encouraged churches and associations to continue to send teams to help with the remodeling of the 82 homes they are working on in Waverly. Interested teams can contact email@example.com, and those who would like to support the relief efforts can go to www.tndisasterrelief.org and click on the “give now” button. B&R