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Local church supporting Oak Mountain students impacted by tornado

Updated: Mar. 30, 2021 at 5:02 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Oak Mountain Elementary and Middle Schools were both damaged by when a tornado tore Shelby County last week, and now students are being thrown back into virtually learning.

Church offering support for students impacted by tornado
Church offering support for students impacted by tornado(non)

Some of the students are also dealing with damaged or even destroyed homes.

As soon as the storms passed, Valleydale Church leaders came up with a plan to help those students and their families, offering in person instruction to help students in Pre-K to 34rd grade complete their virtual lessons.

They are also offering extra activities like gym class, time on the playground, crafts and visits to the church’s children’s library.

Church offering support for students impacted by tornado
Church offering support for students impacted by tornado(non)

“We do have kids here that have lost their homes, kids that have to drive past destroyed schools and trees down and neighborhoods that don’t look the same so for them to be able to come here, a place some have come to before and some haven’t to know this is safe place…. they are having fun and they are not having to remember the destruction that is all around us,” says Jamie Willis, the children’s minister at the church.

Within hours, Willis and Hannah Braswell who is the Preschool and Womens’ Minister at Valleydale Church, came up with a plan to launch the program and offer relief to parents.

“We were originally not going to start until Wednesday but we knew there were teachers who needed somewhere for their children to go so we came up with a plan and opened up Monday,” says Braswell.

The church offered a similar program in the fall when Oak Mountain schools opened virtually.

“We had the framework already made because we had done this in August,” says Willis. “It was really just about getting the volunteers in place and then we could kick it off in hours.”

Those volunteers are pretty special too.

“We had a volunteer today who brought a device for a child who did lose his home in the storm and she wanted him to be able to have something to be able to work on today so she brought him a device,” said Braswell.

Right now school district leaders are working on a plan to re-open, but the church is prepared to offer the program as long as it is needed.

“It is such a blessing to be able to help people who have been directly impacted by the storm to know that we can be a small part of the healing process for them and provide some consistency for those children it really has been a gift,” says Braswell.

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