The St. Louis Sluggers were at it again, this time in Waverly, Tennessee, to help with rebuilding efforts following catastrophic flooding in August 2021.
The group of 25 volunteers from the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Queen of All Saints Parish in Oakville traveled to Waverly in late April for a week of service. They helped with repairs on nine homes, including installing floors, painting, plumbing and electrical work, among other tasks.
Downpours of rain hit Humphreys County, about 60 miles west of Nashville, including the town of Waverly. Nearly 20 inches of rain fell in the area in less than 24 hours, breaking the Tennessee record for one-day rainfall.
Jerry Mueller, who coordinated the mission, connected with Barbara Hooper, vice president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society conference and flood relief coordinator at St. Patrick Church in McEwen, Tennessee.
“We had people scattered all over the county,” Mueller said. “They were building some homes, but the overall property damage by this flood — there was never water like that in the town, ever. It was like a tsunami that gushed in through Waverly.”
Rainwaters led to a deadly tidal wave that was formed by millions of gallons of water that became bottled up at a bridge crossing over Trace Creek in Waverly, according to a lawsuit filed by flood survivors.
Mueller and the Sluggers have nearly 20 years of experience helping with recovery and rebuilding efforts following natural disasters. When he retired from his work with the National Guard, Mueller used his background to organize a home-rebuilding effort in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It began what’s known as the Sluggers, mostly Vincentian volunteers from Queen of All Saints.
“I’ve always had a heart for the underdog,” Mueller said. “In August 2005 I retired, and a week later, I’m watching TV and there’s Katrina. I’m thinking, I should be doing something.” In January of 2006, he and several friends went to the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, to help with reconstruction efforts.
The Sluggers also made 13 trips to Joplin, Missouri, following a major tornado in 2011. Other projects have been done in the St. Louis area. In all, they’ve done 31 projects, or missions.