The cooperative industry is built on relationships and keeping your word. When storms hit, this truth comes to life and the cooperative difference is tangible. Rolling Fork, Mississippi, a small farming town situated along the Mississippi River Delta, is home to Twin County EPA, one of 15 Meridian Members in the state.
Recently, a series of tornadoes hit Rolling Fork, leveling crops, businesses, and family homes that have stood for generations. Meridian Business Development Manager Elissa Fulton was at her home about 40 minutes away when she first heard about the storm. Her family lives in Rolling Fork and makes a living as farmers among the fertile Delta soil. Along with Relationship Manager Tracie Russell, they called Twin County EPA where they have an enduring relationship with General Manager, Tim Perkins, to see how they could help.
Tim needed people to feed the lineworkers working to restore power. “In times of need, co-ops support each other with mutual aid,” explains Elissa. “That means you might have linemen from 9-10 different co-ops working around the clock to restore power after a storm. They can’t stop for meals, so breakfast, lunch, and dinner must be prepared and delivered to them. You are expected to take care of these linemen and feed them. It is a very coordinated effort to take care of these crews.” So, Elissa and Tracie headed to Rolling Fork.
When they arrived, Tim asked them to join him as he surveyed the damage. Together, they were permitted to cross the barricades that surrounded the devastation. Still in shock, families were standing in prayer circles where their homes once stood. Chuck’s, the town’s only restaurant, was demolished. Eight people were inside the restaurant when the storm hit. They all survived by hunkering down inside the walk-in freezer. Even the Twin County EPA office was damaged.
“Over the years, Tracie and I have done a lot of storm work, but we had never seen anything like this,” remembers Elissa.
Before joining Meridian, both Elissa and Tracie worked at Mississippi co-ops. During that time, the two had collaborated with others in the state to create a crisis communication plan for storm preparedness and recovery. Tim asked Tracie to work with his staff, execute the plan, and communicate with their Members.
In sharing her story, Elissa mentioned how much she misses storm work. “It may sound crazy, but everyone in the co-op world knows what I mean. During a storm, we are all there together, living out our values. In times like these, it takes all of us. Communities come together, we form a special breed of family, and it is beautiful.”
Resilient and strong, these families, farmers, and business owners have already started to rebuild. Elissa’s cousin is rebuilding the family farmhouse. Fields are being prepared for the next growing season. Chuck’s is cooking and serving food from a borrowed food truck. Power has been restored. Hope will prevail.