4 years after April 27 storms, ‘PAR’ continues disaster relief efforts

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- Four years after the April 27 storms, lessons learned from that day continue to make an impact.

On that day, Greg Nelson and his group of volunteers learned that they were not truly ready to help in the aftermath.

"We weren't organized, but we did the best we could do with what we had," he said.

To better help, Nelson helped to create "PAR" -- Prepare and Respond Disaster Relief. Nelson said the goal  was to create a self-sufficient volunteer network of more than a dozen Madison County churches.

"We decided that if we're going to do this, we need to do it right."

The effort started with ten additional first response trailers containing chainsaws, rakes and ladders. Through sponsor and volunteer help, the organization has grown to also include two Bobcats, a backhoe, and trucks and trailers to pull the equipment. And Nelson said it does not stop there.

"We are actually purchasing property and going to build a 'PAR' warehouse that will be our headquarters and we'll be able to call it home."

While the events in north Alabama sparked "PAR," its relief efforts continue to span the country including missions to Oklahoma, Virginia and Georgia.

"This our first priority," said Nelson, "but any time we can help somewhere else, we want to be there, too."

Nelson learned last year what it was like to be on the receiving of the relief efforts after an 85-foot tree fell on his house.

"It's really, really a blessing to see somebody, a bunch of folks that just don't care who you are, for real, and they drive up in your driveway and they start working."

The ongoing relief efforts for the volunteers of "PAR" continue to be a calling created from an unforgettable day.

"If someone needs our help, we want to be there for them," said Nelson.

For now, "PAR" is a Madison County-based effort, but Nelson said other counties are interested in mimicking the project.

If you would like to volunteer with "PAR," their next scheduled training date will be held May 16, 2015, at the Weatherly Road Assembly of God with sign in scheduled for 7:30 a.m.