Volunteers Cleanup Damage from Month Old Tornado

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Dozens of volunteers, first responders and even the mayor of Van Buren gave a helping hand Saturday morning to finally get rid of what remains from a storm that left its mark in late November. 

The cold and rainy weather didn’t stop many from coming out to help lend a hand to clean up damage left from an Ef 2 tornado that hit over a month ago, destroying homes and scattering debris throughout the neighborhood.

“We need to get this removed in order to start the healing process,” said volunteer organizer Stephanie Townzen.

The memories of a storm that left its path in seconds are still being dealt with more than 40 days later in the form of piles of shattered homes in front yards.

“It’s such a long process and it can be a hard one too,” Townzen said.  

After the damage didn’t qualify for federal assistance Townzen organized the volunteer clean up to finally get rid of the remaining debris that’s still stacked high near the road. A reminder of something many are wanting to move past.

“Just walking around our streets, I noticed that the debris was not getting picked up. The way this got started was just addressing the city and finding out that there’s a problem,” Townzen said.

After receiving numerous calls and emails from those affected by the tornado,  Mayor Joe Hurst helped with the cleanup process alongside volunteers.

“We’ll be sweeping the streets and that sort of thing, but right now this is all about the community wanting to help out,” Mayor Hurst said.

Moving from one home to another, with efforts big as tractors being put to use and as small as a rake, people pack dumpsters over 10 feet high.

“The process is to have the volunteers to get all of the dumpsters filled and hopefully there’s no debris left,” Townzen said.

Some homes still ripped to pieces and some with nothing left standing all. Those cleaning up said they just want to put the past behind them and Saturday was an important step in that direction.

“Because our community cares about each other and we want to help our neighbors,” Mayor Hurst said.

“We are just so grateful and we look forward to seeing all of this removed and are just so happy for this,” Townzen said.

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