Tornado relief supplies arrive in hard-hit Arkansas town

Story by John Iwasaki / Photos by Comfort Brown

Make a one-time donation to our U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us respond quickly and effectively to life-threatening emergencies right here in the United States, like the recent tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast.

Aalaiya Pitts, 3, receives a personal hygiene kit from World Vision's Phyllis Freeman as her sister, Aalivia, 5, watches in Mayflower, Ark. Looking on from the right is the girls' mother, Ariel Pitts. Their grandmother, Monica Harper, is on the left.

World Vision will distribute personal hygiene kits and other relief supplies to battered areas in central Arkansas, part of its multi-state response to deadly tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest, South, and East.

World Vision's initial shipment of supplies, including blankets, clothing, and paper products—enough to serve 900 to 1,200 people—were delivered to a local partner in Little Rock, Arkansas. From there, the items are going to families in Mayflower and Vilonia, two towns to the north that tornadoes leveled April 27, killing 11.

The twister affected four generations of a family in Mayflower, visited by World Vision staff May 1. Beatrice Stubbs surveyed damage at her home—its ceiling open to the blue sky, its windows blown out—with her mother, Mary Ella Fuller. Nearby were her sister, Ariel Pitts, and her nieces, Aalivia, 7, and Alaiya, 5.

Beatrice Stubbs stands in front of her tornado-damaged home in Mayflower, while her seated mother, Mary Ella Fuller, holds a personal hygiene kit.

"She appreciated all that was going on," said Phyllis Freeman, national director of domestic disaster relief for World Vision's U.S. Programs, after giving hygiene kits to the family. But Stubbs also expressed concern about their neighborhood's fate because it had "not [received] a lot of media coverage," Freeman added.

It's those types of communities, the ones that already were struggling economically and lack resources, that World Vision focuses on after disasters strike. The organization looks to partner with churches and other community organizations in relief operations.

From Mayflower, population 2,300, Freeman and her staff will head west to assess tornado damage in an even smaller community: Quapaw, a town of about 900 residents in the northeast corner of Oklahoma. Tornadoes destroyed half of Quapaw, Freeman said, and "in the past, towns that small never recover."

The aftermath of the tornado that whipped through Mayflower includes the remains of structures and vehicles.

World Vision also is assessing damage in some parts of North Carolina.

Nearly 100 tornadoes ripped through the Midwest, South, and East since April 27, causing more than 30 deaths and destroying or damaging hundreds of homes, according to news reports. The National Weather Service said the twister that flattened central Arkansas was a "high-end" EF4, the second-most powerful level pack winds of 166 to 200 mph.

The storm system also caused heavy rains and massive flooding in the Gulf Coast states, especially Florida.

How Can You Help Now?

Pray for children, families, and communities affected by the recent tornadoes, and for protection for those in the storm system's path in the days ahead. Pray for those who lost loved ones and property. Pray also that those impacted would find the help they need.

Aalaiya (left) and Aalivia Pitts hold personal hygiene kits they received from World Vision.

Make a one-time donation to our U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us respond quickly and effectively to life-threatening emergencies right here in the United States.

World Vision also is seeking volunteers at its North Texas warehouse in Grand Prairie, Texas, to support the organization's relief efforts. Volunteers will help sort, prepare, and pack cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and other supplies. (Volunteers also are welcome throughout the year to help with our ongoing warehouse needs.)