OKLAHOMA/ALABAMA - A group of church kids from Oklahoma really wanted to prepare care packages for the kids in Alabama affected by the tornadoes. They each made a care package and also a card of hope and encouragement for the kids that would receive them. Once they finished their care packages they shipped them to Melia Harvey in Alabama along with a box full of items they had left over and also a box full of handmade blankets. Melia is orginally from Oklahoma but now lives in Tuscaloosa. She contacted Billie-Jo Maxcey with S.A.F.E. (Stuffed Animals For Emergencies). The boxes wouldn’t fit in the trunk of her car and were so heavy that she and Billie-Jo both had to carry them. When asked about the contribution Maxcey said, “These kids made some wonderful care packages for kids of all ages. We can’t wait to distribute these out to the kids in Alabama. This is a such an inspirational story to show everyone that no matter how old you are you can make a difference. The Oklahoma kids are going to bless so many other kids with their love and support. They are forever in my heart. We love Oklahoma!!”
HANCEVILLE, AL - From the time girls hit their teens they dream of two events in their lives, their wedding day and their senior prom. You can hardly pinpoint the exact date of your wedding when you are thirteen, but you can narrow down your prom pretty well. You know what year, and you know it will be sometime that spring. Having marked that date in your mind, nothing much can interfere…unless a tornado blows away half of your town and maybe your dress.
That was the case when the Hanceville (Alabama) High School senior girls returned to school after the horrendous storm. They had other things on their minds until then, but seeing each other all together at school reminded them of just how close it was to prom night, and it wasn’t a pretty thought. There was talk of calling it off altogether.
A lot of families just couldn’t afford prom, not after loosing their homes, missing work, and restocking the freezer after days of power outages caused them to have to throw away their extra food. Things were looking dismal; there weren’t many smiling faces when prom was mentioned.
Then came the unexpected…you might say a fairy godmother appeared out of the blue. Just two days before prom, teachers met to hear the offer of dresses, shoes, corsages, boutonnieres, and even hair and make-up, free for the Hanceville High School Seniors of 2011, courtesy of Operation Prom.
Operation Prom is the brainchild of Ashley Murray, Lauren Jones, and Jade Rossetti, who all recalled what special nights their own proms were and wanted others to have their special nights to remember.
Friends since high school, the three young women were sitting around talking when the power was out. “We had been out volunteering around our
area, picking up limbs and such, and we started talking about doing something else to help,” said Murray. “Someone mentioned that it was prom time and we hit on an idea to help because prom is expensive and now there was this disaster on top of it.”
“We were blessed in our endeavor,” she said. “We found a building belonging to Frank Pitts, which he generously offered to loan us for one weekend – it’s been three weeks now. Hanceville was our third Operation Prom. We have been very successful in pounding the pavement for dresses, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics and flowers.”
“Right after the storm flowers shot up really high, but Cosco stepped up and donated the flowers for the corsages and boutonnieres,’ said Murray. “Casey Clark, owner of ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ donated all the jewelry in her shop to the effort.”
As part of the phenomenon of Operation Prom, various make-up artists, hairstylists, nail technicians and other volunteers also stepped up to be a part of this joyful chance to give someone something that will be one of the best memories of their lives.
“I think this is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever been a part of,” said Murray. “Sometimes when the girls first come in they are a little shy, but after they see themselves all pampered and looking beautiful, they leave with big smiles of self-confidence.”
The trio was even able to receive a little help with tuxedos for the guys. Prom Dresses for Tornado Victims, a similar organization headed by Vicky Shields, also donated dresses when it came time for the Hanceville Prom.
The girl’s gratefully accepted the offer. Some of them already had their dresses, but they went to see what this unexpectedly…[READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE]
Reprinted with permission of the Cullman Times
HUNTSVILLE, AL - The Rocket City Mustang Club teamed up to provide $2000 in relief supplies through North Alabama Disaster Relief of Ardmore (NADRA). NADRA has been providing relief supplies on behalf of their community to approximately 15 communities on Sand Mountain, Flat Rock, Hackleburg, Hamilton, Phil Campbell, Arab, Ruth, Moulton, Toney, Harvest, Capshaw, East Limestone, Ider, Anniston, Cordova, Tuscaloosa, and Northport, all of which were devastated by the April 27th storms.
The Rocket City Mustang Club, located in Madison County Alabama, promotes the restoration, preservation, and enjoyment of Mustangs and serves as a source of information concerning these automobiles for the benefit of its members as well as the general public. The Club is a chartered regional group of the Mustang Club of America (MCA)and meets every third Tuesday of the month at Lonestar Steakhouse in Huntsville, AL at 7 pm.
CULLMAN, AL – Cullman Rising has organized a 5k run this Saturday, June 25th at 8am in downtown Cullman, Alabama. Participants will meet at the parking lot on 1st Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets. The path of the run will follow the April 27th tornado’s path. The organizers are excited about this event and the whole thing has come together in just two weeks! There are already lots of runners and they would love to have many more! You can register Saturday morning before the race starts! Head on out this Saturday and cheer on the runners or lace up your running shoes and join in! The Cullman Rising 5k is sponsored by Cabin Fever Beverages, Cullman Parks and Recreation, One Fitness, PowerBar and Coca-Cola, and the Trak Shak. There will be t-shirts for the runners and orders will be taken for anyone wanting to make a donation of $20 or more. The front of the t-shirt will have the Cullman Rising logo on it and the date of the Tornado.
For more information you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
BIRMINGHAM, AL – Bama Rising: A Benefit Concert For Alabama Tornado Recovery concert at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center on June 14th raised an estimated $2.2 million through ticket sales and other charitable efforts surrounding the event.
The concert was organized and produced by Ali Harnell, Nashville-based SVP at AEG Live; Coran Capshaw at Red Light Management; and Gary Weinberger, president of Red Mountain Entertainment. Dave Matthews underwrote production expenses estimated at more than $100,000, and Brad Paisley donated his touring production for the concert. Proceeds benefit the Bama Rising Fund and will be distributed through the Greater Birmingham Community Foundation.
On the bill were Alabama, credited with getting the ball rolling on Bama Rising, along with Rodney Atkins, Dierks Bentley, Bo Bice, Blind Boys of Alabama, Luke Bryan, the Commodores, Sheryl Crow, Sara Evans, Taylor Hicks, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Montgomery Gentry, David Nail, Jake Owen, Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Darius Rucker, and Ashton Shepherd.
CULLMAN, AL - A small Bavarian plate, it’s delicate pattern marching round the cracked rim, a torn lace curtain blowing in the soft breeze, plaster dust covering what is left of a family home almost as old as Cullman itself – all sad reminders of how quickly material things can be gone with the wind.
This was the sight facing Kenny, Laura and Anna Cleveland as they said their final good-byes to the house where Anna grew up. Laura had daydreamed of living in this house as a child, “I never thought that one day that dream would come true,” she smiled. “I guess every little girl in Cullman has looked at this house like that at one time or another.”
The house, whose original owner was George Parker, was built in 1877. In the intervening years it had seen five families through childbirth, weddings, funerals and three wars. In its heyday it rose tall and proud on a rise overlooking what was to become the city of Cullman. In those years many changes would take place around it, while it became nestled among towering oak and pecan trees that would eventually shade its porches and provide a place for children to swing as they watched time march by along
From its second story windows, ladies in lace collars and elaborate up-swept hairdos would have waved to passersby who traveled to and fro in horse drawn buggies or wagons loaded with snowy white cotton. Later men in high, starched collars and bowler hats would crank their Model T automobiles in the driveway outside the iron fence that surrounded the house.
It was the home of a successful banker and publisher of the city’s first newspaper, the Alabama Tribune. Today, another newspaper reports its demise. When the furious winds whipped through Cullman’s historic downtown district on April 27, this house was one among many, too many, that suffered the brunt of the tornado’s wrath. As winds in excess of 120 miles per hour tore the stately trees up by their gigantic roots, their limbs crashed through its roof and punctured its windows. Nails were pried from its walls, furniture and paintings were spun around its rooms, china crashed from cabinets and walls, and in a matter of seconds the house that had become one of Cullman’s treasured historic landmarks was a shambles.
The Cleveland’s rode out the storm in their lake house, watching the twister as it writhed its way across the dark horizon toward Cullman. As soon as it was safe they made their way into a town they hardly recognized. “As we came up Highway 278, toward our house I could see that the shingles had been blown off the roof at its highest point, but I couldn’t tell the extent of the damage because of the trees,” said Laura, whose overriding emotion at the time was shock. Trying to remain calm for the sake of her thirteen-year-old daughter, Anna, she held her emotions in check.
For six years the family had loved and cared for the grand old dame on Fourth Street. Laura had decorated it, Kenny had maintained it, and Anna had grown up there. Everywhere they looked there were memories covered in grime and wet through from the deluge of rain that fell after the storm.
Kenny had to cut away the branches of the trees that once graced the property before they could get inside. “I cut a pecan that had a diameter of 40 inches,” he shook his head. “There was an oak that was over 48 inched in diameter.” A total of ten giant trees were removed before they could even began to assess the magnitude of the damage.
Anna was probably the most disturbed by the sight. “We often joke that Anna is a little old lady in a thirteen year old body,” said her mother. “She worries about everything.”
Anna came to say good-bye to her home on Wednesday, a month from the day that the wind swept her childhood playthings and souvenirs all over the next block. “The detached carriage house was cedar-lined, making it a great place to store things,” explained Laura. “Unfortunately it was totally gone. However, the neighbors did find some of my most precious things like my wedding pictures and some of Anna’s baby clothes and her baby book.”
As the days passed, the thought of actually tearing the house down didn’t really register with Laura. “Finally, when one of the city engineers explained to us that only the kitchen was safe to walk in, it dawned on me that it couldn’t be fixed,” she said.
Some of the family’s furniture, a few antique pieces, Laura’s oil paintings and a some other things were salvaged. The rest was given to friends or thrown away. “It’s surprising when you really get down to what matters, how little you have to have,” mused Laura.
“We had to make decisions about what had to be kept and what had to go because we had to work against the rain that was coming on Monday,” explained Kenny. “It was our family that really mattered, all the rest is just stuff.” And the family is going to be just fine.
The Cleveland’s have a positive attitude about what has befallen them. “We have gone through so many other things in our lives,” reflected Laura. “Kenny and I dealt with infertility, but had Anna after we were married 16 years. She was born with a tumor and had chemo and two surgeries by the time she was three months old. Then, at the age of four our family doctor found a heart murmur and Anna had to have open heart surgery.”
“In 2004, Kenny’s mom had heart surgery and never recovered,” Laura said. “She was in the ICU for three months, then two years ago his Dad passed after a debilitating neuro problem similar to Alzheimer’s.”
They know the true meaning of what is important, and what can and cannot be replaced.
With the ability to see clearly in the rational light of day, the Cleveland’s have gone on with their lives, although they hated to see the history of the house disappear along with its gambrel roof.
Laura has saved some treasures that were passed down with the house to each of its owners – the Bavarian tea set and several historical…[CONTINUE TO FULL ARTICLE]
Article originally published in the Cullman Times and reprinted with permission.
ADAMSVILLE, AL - One spring day in 1932, despite the hard economic times of the great depression, there was one nice lady who decided to donate a pretty red dress to the Red Cross for victims of the tornados that devastated the state on March 21st. I know this because that red dress changed the course of my grandmother’s life.
My grandmother, Ollie Smith, was a vivacious young lady with lots of brothers and sisters, strict parents, a natural talent for playing the piano, a hard scrabble existence, and a proud stance against taking charity. Church was the cornerstone of her community, and the Smith Family was well known around Jefferson County, Alabama, to showcase amazingly good throw-down gospel singers. Life in Adamsville had a pretty typical and normal rhythm; until the tornado hit.
That tornado must have been a doozy. If you ask my 96-year-old grandmother today, she can’t tell you what day it is but she sure can describe in vivid detail what it felt like to be caught between the house and the storm pit when that tornado came. She talks about the wind picking her up and dropping her back down, and about the roaring sounds, and about the terror. Her baby brother Fred was too young to remember later that the tornado carried him acres away from the house and dumped him into a field. There were bumps, bruises, and breaks, but all survived. The house and all their belongings were destroyed; a complete and total loss.
Being in Alabama this week has brought to life for me what the days after the 1932 tornado must have been like for the Smith family. Despite their almost fanatical stance against receiving charity, they gracefully and gratefully accepted help from the Red Cross and from generous neighbors; boxes of necessities and clothes came in and a new house went up. In one of those boxes was a pretty red dress.
Ollie and her sister Mabel scrapped over ownership of that dress, and for some long forgotten reason, Ollie won. When she ventured out to a singing in Republic, I wonder if that red dress gave her some extra swagger up there in front of the congregation. I wonder, too, if the church family felt close, and prayerful, and thankful like we all feel now. I wonder if the reason my grandfather, Calvin Garner, decided to visit that church with his buddies that day was because of the recent storm and the aftermath.
The rest of the story is not up for debate. When Calvin Garner saw Ollie Smith in that red dress, he knew. He had to meet that girl; he had to brave his friends’ warnings that those Smith gals were shielded from rascals like him by the strictest father in the county. He proved his character, ran the gauntlet, and got the girl. The smiling, singing girl in the pretty red dress.
That tornado was seventy-nine years ago, and yet that simple exchange still lives on. The giving. The receiving. The generosity; the gratitude. A garment handed over; a garment worn.
Proof that a simple act of giving can be much more than it seems. A donated red dress can change the course of a life.
Submitted and written by Donna Garner Arcara
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ollie Smith Garner passed away on June 5, 2011. Her granddaughter Donna told me, “My 96-year-old grandmother passed away last week; the last really coherent conversation I had with her was on Mother’s Day. In that conversation, I told her I’d just documented her 1932 tornado experience in a story in the days following the Alabama April 27 storms; she was a living example of the long-lasting impact of these storms, and of the generosity of people. If anyone ever questions whether “giving” really means anything… this true story may reinforce the fact that yes, it does make a huge difference.”
We are honored to share this story and dedicate it to the memory of Mrs. Garner. To all who are helping the survivor’s of the storms of April 27, 2011 please know that what you are doing is life changing and you never know who will share a story of how YOUR generosity changed their lives.
TONEY, AL – Kim Klockow is a graduate research assistant at Oklahoma Climatological Survey in Norman, OK. She contacted stormHOPE.org as she was planning a visit to Alabama for research. During her week here Kim visited several areas throughout the state that were affected by the April 27th tornados. She was moved by the what she saw and the people she met and asked if we would share this message from her on stormHOPE.org.