Neighbors, relief organizations rush to help tornado victims


CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Thousands of people are picking up the pieces after devastating tornadoes ripped across the Midwest and South last week. The storms damaged and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, leaving many without food, clothes and personal belongings.

Sentimental items such as wedding photos, letters and family DVDs are being found in other people’s yards, miles away from their homes.

Survivors of the historic storms are posting lost items to Facebook in hopes of finding their owners of these sentimental belongings. One of the groups, called the “Quad State Tornado Found Items,” has more than 44,000 members.

On the ground, neighbors and volunteers are helping hundreds of people pick up the pieces.

“I just, I said, ‘I can’t do this,’” said Sherry Eason, one of the volunteers from Tennessee. “I have to go home, I have to help my people if I can.”

Several relief organizations are jumping into action to provide relief efforts. In Illinois, the Midwest Food Bank and Salvation Army brought food and supplies to the Kentucky tornado survivors. The Ohio Task Force One deployed a team to the Bluegrass State, one of the worst-hit states of the storms.

“The state of Ohio is helping Kentucky, our neighbor,” said Evan Schuman, program director of Ohio Task Force One. “That to me is the bottom line; we’re going to help our fellow citizens and in this case, it’s our next-door neighbor.”

Good Samaritans from eastern Kentucky helped gather essential items to the areas hit hardest by the storms. Operation BBQ Relief, a nonprofit that serves barbecue to victims of tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and wildfires, plans to open a mobile kitchen to provide up to 25,000 meals per day to victims. About 200 volunteers are expected to be on the ground assisting.

“Right now, we’re in that first, you know, 24 hours of what we call the 72 hours of chaos of getting on the ground,” said Stan Hays, co-founder and CEO of Operation BBQ Relief. [We’re] really starting to see what is happening, what the needs are in that community.”

The tornadoes tore through the heart of west Kentucky on Friday, killing at least 74 people in the state. In addition to the deaths in Kentucky, the tornadoes also killed at least six people in Illinois, where the Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville was hit; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed and the governor said workers shielded residents with their own bodies; and two in Missouri.

Hays says the only way people can get through this is by sticking together.

“We can do so much more together than we can divided. So we need to reach out, you know, to one another.”

The Michigan-based Homeless Angels is also helping bring Christmas to Mayfield, one of the cities hit hardest by the storms. Their first shipment of toys landed in Kentucky on Monday afternoon.

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