Coalition Looks Towards Long-Term Tornado Relief

Jul 28, 2014

Victims of the tornado in Vilonia wait for President Obama to come by on May 7, 2014.
Credit Tamara Keith / NPR News

Three months after a tornado ripped through parts of central Arkansas, a coalition is looking towards long-term recovery. For those in Vilonia and Mayflower, that means getting life back to normal. But the degree of destruction has made even having places to coordinate recovery a challenge.

Nathan Kilbourne is pastor at Vilonia Methodist Church, which was destroyed.  

"We had no place to meet. We had no place to gather. And now we have two modular units here. One is big enough for 150 people and we’re able to worship in it. And we also now have a new office building. So that’s where we’re at now. We’re still able to be really active in our community. Now, we have a good place to be," he says.

Janice Mann has been involved in responding to disasters in Arkansas since 2009. She’s currently the recovery coordinator and vice chair for Arkansas’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.

"This is probably the biggest event that I have seen and actually engaged in and it’s been a learning experience. The support for these communities has just been awesome," she says.  

Mann says that although the debris and trash has for the most part been cleared, the lion’s share of Arkansas’s recovery remains as people move back into their homes.

"We are finding folks everyday that still need help. We’re getting a lot of requests for chainsaw work. Now we’re starting to have people move back into their homes and there’s a need for household goods and then in the future we will see the major repairs and rebuild as we get the resources in," Mann said.  

Resources will come through long term recovery coalitions, where corporate, community and faith-based groups are partnering to effect change as quickly as possible. The day-long workshop at Conway’s First United Methodist Church will train community leaders in how recovery can work in local communities. 

“There are still a lot of folks with un-met needs and we’re working with them. But they realize at this point that the help is there and that we’ll be there. There’s a good ray of hope out there,” Mann says. 

The event Tuesday runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 1610 Prince Street in Conway.  Those interested can call 866-732-6121 for more information.