Though the weather brought no relief in the days following the storm, as victims faced freezing temperatures followed by rain, this was no excuse for some 700 volunteers locally and across the state who descended upon Gordon County working throughout the weekend to bring food, clothing, supplies and fulfill any other need to those devastated by the tornado.
Additionally, Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston reports that alongside deputies and Fairmount and Calhoun City police departments, more than 10 agencies from outside Gordon County assisted in recovery and relief efforts immediately after the storm.
Gordon County bus drivers with the transportation department also donated their time to deliver 25-30 volunteers on three buses, food in the days following the storm to storm victims.
Almost immediately after the storm passed donations began to pour in from local organizations, and volunteers were not in short supply. Sonoraville High School was eventually named the incident command center for relief efforts by Gordon County EMA.
From this location food was provided three times a day, Thursday through Sunday, and the gym served as a temporary shelter.
The Sonoraville Recreation Center has since been turned into a pick up location for food, blankets, supplies and anything storm victims would need in the aftermath.
Additionally, a Red Cross shelter was also set up at Sonoraville Recreation Center after being moved from Belmont Baptist Church in Calhoun.
McGill Mountain resident Jennifer DeFoor was on her way out of the Sonoraville Rec. shelter Monday afternoon and was excited to report she had finally found a place to live. DeFoor came to the shelter after a fallen tree destroyed her home Wednesday.
“I’ve been here since Friday and I’m so excited to be able to sleep in my own bed,” said DeFoor on Monday.
Loaded up with blankets, cleaning supplies, food and more, DeFoor was assisted by volunteers Stephen Rademacher and Anette McEntyre at Sonoraville Recreation Center Monday.
The old Big Lots warehouse on Hwy 53 has been set up to house all of the donations that are available for pick up at the Sonoraville Recreation Center.
Recently a large donation totaling more than $100,000 worth of supplies for storm victims was delivered on a 53-foot tractor-trailer from the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort, Inc., according to SHS Principal Bruce Potts.
A second truckload is expected Wednesday morning with more specific supply needs, compiled from a list communicated by storm victims over the weekend.
Potts, like so many others, worked at SHS over the weekend around the clock working with EMA crew Richard Cooper, Chad Castoe and other first responders to ensure storm victims were being tended to, however the reality of the situation did eventually set in.
“I had mixed emotions all weekend,” said Potts. “I struggled with the devastation with what happened and families being displaced and knowing those families.”
Potts went on to explain retired educator Terry Hampton’s home and the memories of his son Coulter Hampton had been scattered across the countryside by the tornado.
“Those memories they will never get back,” said Potts.
During a student assembly, Potts recognized the more than 300 students who stood up for time served volunteering over the weekend, and left those not standing with a charge.
“This is where it will get hard, this is the debris, this is the garbage, we want to continue to rise up in our community before this is done,” said Potts. “I would love to have every student get involved and help a family. Coming together is going to make our community stronger.”
GEMA provided counselors for SHS students, and Gordon EMA Director Richard Cooper commended students on their volunteer efforts.
“It’s not just SHS students, Calhoun kids were out here, Gordon Central students were out here making sandwiches,” said Potts. “Calhoun band boosters emptied out their concessions, that filled up a whole table. It’s high energy for workers, and we were able to put snack packs together for utility workers. A large number of our kids had a hand in the cleanup and will continue to work.”
Donations of food, paper products, sanitary items, blankets, etc., will continue to be available at the Sonoraville Recreation Center, said Potts, who explained the center’s director Don Holley agrees the station will be there as long as it is needed by the community.
The United Way is also accepting donations and has so far helped place five storm victim families. Donations can be made to the United Way for direct local relief.