Valley View Community Sees Hope After The Storm

Valley View Memorial

On May 25, severe tornadoes tore through Cooke, Collin and Denton counties in North Texas; one touched down in Valley View and devastated the Lone Oak Road community. Nearly every home in the neighborhood was damaged by the storm, many were completely destroyed, and seven residents lost their lives. 

But on June 1 – just one week later – nearly 175 neighbors and first responders gathered on Lone Oak Road with their eyes fixed not on the devastation around them, but on a handmade cross set against the horizon. 

“In the days immediately after the storms, I got a call from Ray Fletcher, the Cooke County emergency management coordinator who leads the county’s VOAD group,” said Rev. Adam Spore, senior pastor at First UMC Gainesville. 

Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster – or VOAD – brings together the wide range of partner organizations after a natural disaster, promoting cooperation, communication and coordination to allow for the most effective delivery of services. In Cooke County, Spore, along with Rev. Beate Hall of Valley View UMC and Pastor Martha Hagan-Smith of Whaley UMC in Gainesville, has been active in VOAD’s community response. 

Memorial cross

“UMCOR and our United Methodist disaster response teams are always early on the scene and among the last to leave following a natural disaster. But, because all disasters are local, we never operate independently of the community leadership,” said Rev. Jeremy Basset, disaster response coordinator for the North Texas Conference. “Working with the county VOAD helps to get us all on the same page from the start, so that we’re pulling in the same direction and delivering care for impacted communities in a way that can move them to recovery and restoration.” 

After sitting with the pain and loss experienced in Lone Oak Road and across Valley View, Fletcher recognized the pressing need for a memorial service and tapped local United Methodist clergy to help make it happen. He and Spore met with Carlos Pineda, a neighbor who lost his home in the tornado but was ready to help his community process and heal, even as he walked through his own grief. 

“We’ve been busy at work; we haven’t even had time to process what happened,” Pineda told FOX Weather one week after the storms. “We've been busy cleaning up, helping our neighbors – just helping each other out.” 

Pineda helped Spore and Fletcher to build relationships in the community – one that can often be distrustful of government intervention. Octavio was one of the neighbors Pineda brought in to discuss the need for a memorial service. 

“Octavio told us: ‘We’ve just been going and going. We haven’t stopped to think about it, about what happened,’ ” Spore said. “And I asked him, ‘Have you maybe been going and going so that you don’t have to stop and think about it?’ ” 

As plans for the service began to crystallize, community members remained at the center, offering their gifts every step of the way. One man recruited his pastor to co-lead the service in Spanish. And Octavio contributed the cross that would stand as the focal point of the service. Neighbors began leaving treasured items and tributes at the foot of the cross, viewing it not only as a marker of what was lost, but as a reminder of the hope and future that still lies ahead. 

“The work of recovering from an event like this – it's bigger than any one person can take on,” Spore said. “But in these moments, we’re each just giving what we can. Whether that’s organizing and distributing donations, or sending teams to clear debris, or leading a memorial service, or crafting a cross for the community.” 

The church continues to support the community’s recovery today, convening nearly weekly meetings to maximize the impact of every grant opportunity and donated dollar. “For many of these folks, when disaster hits, it’s their first time navigating a recovery process of this scale," Basset said. “But they know that the United Methodists have done this before and that they can rely on us to walk alongside them until the work is complete.” 

Those interested in supporting the recovery efforts in Cooke County can contribute to the NTC Disaster Relief Fund or email Basset directly. 

As Spore notes: “When we come alongside our neighbors like this – to really walk through recovery with them – that's where the hope shines through.”  

Benefit Concert

Cody Jinks, country music artist and Haltom City native, is holding a Texas Tornado Relief Benefit on July 14 at Red River Station in Saint Jo, Texas. Tickets start at $150. All proceeds will go to VOAD to help those affected by the tornado.

"Cody lives in the area and their home had very minor damage but when he was approached to do a concert he didn't even hesitate," Spore said.

Published: Wednesday, June 26, 2024