Written by Connie Larkman
One year later, the Rev. Donald Thompson plans to feel like part of one church for a long time.
"We at Shallow Well Church will be forever thankful for the quick response, personal attention, and caring shown by the United Church of Christ Insurance Board (UCCIB)," said Thompson, senior pastor of the Sanford, N.C., church.
Reflecting on the April 16, 2011, tornado that killed two people in Sanford and resulted in varying degrees of damage to all eight structures on Shallow Well's property, Thompson praised the Insurance Board for a gesture that has made his congregation appreciate being supported by the larger UCC church.
"We did not realize what an important decision it was several years ago when we decided to insure with the Insurance Board," he said. "Amidst all the uncertainty surrounding Shallow Well Church, we were about to find out how blessed we were."
"Joe Boyd [UCCIB claims manager] arrived to personally survey the damage and expedite our repairs," said Thompson. "Buildings were protected from further damage, and the clean-up began. We were reassured that our loss would be taken care of."
All repairs have been completed, said Thompson, except those to a picnic shelter and a storage building.
"Visiting the church in person makes a huge difference, just on a personal level," said Boyd. "I'm not there to do much as far as handling a claim. That's what the local adjuster does. But it goes a long way to show our participants that we're there for them, and that we do care."
"And it's not just a one-day visit," added Boyd. "We stay very involved, sometimes for years."
More than 2,400 –– about 45 percent of all UCC entities –– participate in the Insurance Board program, said Boyd. "There are an additional 1,353 participants from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Presbyterian Church (USA)."
The tornado toppled more than 90 cemetery grave markers on the church property, causing consternation over the potential cost to have them set back up, said Thompson. "We were pleasantly surprised when Joe said, ‘They're covered under your policy.' "
Individuals, Southern Conference churches and UCC national offices all assisted financially during Shallow Well's trying time, said Thompson.
"We decided that since we were so blessed, we would use those donations, plus money we added, to help families in this time of need," Thompson said. "It was a great time of sharing Christ's love with those who were hurting."
Though part of the Fellowship Hall roof was missing, the hall was used as a distribution point where food, clothes and essential items were given out. "The community pitched in," Thompson said, "and our building soon filled with all kinds of food, bottled water, clothes, toiletries and even toys for children who had lost everything."
In addition to structural damage, the church bus was a total loss, said Thompson.
Among the damage in the Sanford community, the homes of two Shallow Well families were destroyed and six others sustained major damage.
"The UCC Insurance Board was there in our time of need," said Thompson. "We were in good hands, and we will be forever grateful."