drone certificationLocal News: Peace Lutheran Church hosted a chili benefit for the SCSAR team (1/20/22)

January 20, 2022by helo-10
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The Sharp County Search and Rescue/SkyWarn Team was honored at a chili benefit dinner at the Cherokee Village Peace Lutheran Church. Pictured (l to r): Director David Woods, Assistant Director Dave Gruger, Chaplain Donnie Clayton, EMT Jeff Tatum, search line leaders Matthew Appleby, Patty McCord, Tiffany Evans and youth members Skyler Twilley and Blake McCord. (Youth group Captain Hunter Gruger is not pictured.)

A special chili supper was held at the Peace Lutheran Church of Cherokee Village to benefit the Sharp County Search and Rescue and SkyWarn team (SCSAR). The benefit dinner was offered by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) on Friday, Jan. 14 at the church where more than 100 people from all over attended, despite the impending inclement weather.

The dinner included all-you-can-eat beef and venison chili, as well as alpha-gal friendly chili. There were plenty of sides, including homemade cornbread and chicken soup. Of course a variety of desserts were offered. Tickets were sold at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Team members from the SCSAR, including Director David Woods and Assistant Director Dave Gruger, attended the benefit. SCSAR canine team member, Radar, waited outside while people enjoyed their dinner. After dinner, however, people could go out to meet Radar and explore the SCSAR trailer, which has been specifically customized to meet the needs of the team when they go out on search and rescue operations. It is equipped with computers and telecommunication systems to allow tracking movements of individual team members out in the field, including Radar’s movements. From the trailer they can also maintain full communication with team members and other officials on the ground.

The trailer also contains bunks for sleeping and a small kitchenette with a microwave and refrigerator. This is absolutely necessary as the SCSAR team will often spend multiple days, nights and even weeks on a search. Team members may take turns in the field to allow for some rest time in order to stay fresh and alert. One of the key trademarks of the SCSAR is they will not give up on a search until it is resolved, whatever the outcome may be. Giving up on a search is not even a consideration.

While people were finishing up their dinner, Director Woods introduced the individual members of his team who each brings his or her own expertise, including Assistant Director and canine handler Dave Gruger, Chaplain Donnie Clayton, EMT Jeff Tatum, search line leaders Matthew Appleby, Patty McCord, Tiffany Evans, and youth group captain and canine flanker Hunter Gruger, as well as youth members Skyler Twilley and Blake McCord. Woods made a point of recognizing Skyler Twilley as standing out in the youth group in demonstrating his leadership abilities. “I’m actually promoting him to assistant captain of the youth group tonight,” Woods said.

Woods described the search and rescue training his team has gone through, which is extensive. “We are nationally registered. We go to all the classes that we can possibly go to,” Woods explained. His team is certified to perform statewide as well as national searches. SCSAR does focus most of their searches within northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, but they can branch out when needed. They are not restricted to Sharp County, nor are they a part of any state, county or municipal government. They continue to expand their education, and by Spring 2022, all of his members will be nationally certified, making SCSAR the only nationally certified search and rescue team from Fayetteville to Jonesboro.

They are all volunteers, serving out of the goodness of their hearts and do not charge anything for their services. He added, “If we’re called to your residence…to help you locate a missing relative or friend…we never begin our searches without an opening prayer. We are very much faith based.”

Woods welcomes direct calls to his personal cell number (870-329-3459) anytime, day or night, even if someone has the slightest concern. There is no 48-hour waiting period before action is taken. Once he gets a call, Woods will gather up his team members and volunteers and arrive on site soon after. He requests people wait for his team’s arrival and not walk within the search area to avoid any odor contamination, which could interfere with the canine search. Along with canine assistance, SCSAR also has a drone available to do air searches.

The chili benefit brought in $1,500 for the SCSAR in appreciation for all of their efforts in serving within and beyond the community. In addition to their search and rescue endeavors, Woods also invited people to join his SCSAR/Skywarn page on Facebook to get the latest updates on local weather. He is briefed twice a day by the National Weather Service and is continuously posting weather updates on their Facebook page.

One organizer of the event, and member of the LWML, Jean L’Hotta Crossett, commented “We are so proud of the community for all their support.” She added, “This was truly a labor of love. Although our congregation is small, we have the best team imaginable. Everyone just jumps in to help where needed, without question. In the fellowship and love it brings to be able to give back to the community, we have been truly blessed.”



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