Monson residents are reaching out to survivors of the tornadoes that tore through the South and Midwest last week, even as they continue to struggle with the devastating effects of a twister that leveled much of their town in June, an event they are planning to mark with an anniversary commemoration.
“I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing that’s going to stop us from doing what we can, in spite of being in the midst of our own recovery,’’ said Lori Stacy, director of Monson’s Council on Aging, by phone Sunday.
Stacy said she is spearheading fund-raising efforts to help restore a senior center in Harrisburg, Ill., that was destroyed last week and her church, the Monson-Glendale United Methodist Church, is offering help to churches in the affected areas.
“I can’t even right now come up with a word that describes how I felt when I saw that’’ whole towns had been destroyed, Stacy said. “I hear the words, ‘bad’ and ‘terrible’ and ‘devastating’- somehow, none of them seem to fit.’’ The storms killed at least 38 people in five states - Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio - and caused widespread damage there and in neighboring states.
As Monson residents rally to help the victims of those tornadoes, they are planning a night to remember the storm that upended their lives on the afternoon of June 1.
Karen King, 53, who sits on the planning committee for the commemoration and has been active in several recovery efforts, said the commemoration is tentatively scheduled for the night of June 1 at the Granite Valley Middle School.
King, who also started the volunteer group Street Angels to aid Monson residents, said the event will include a slide show of the damage, a moment of prayer, and updates from public officials and volunteers about the local recovery effort.
It has been a painstaking process.
More than 270 homes were damaged by the storm, with at least 75 families displaced. Residents in the town of about 8,500 have struggled to get back on their feet, reporting problems securing federal relief aid and working with insurers and adjusters.
Signs of the storm’s devastation are still visible. Many of the damaged homes have not been restored, and the town hall remains boarded up after losing its roof.
King, who started a Facebook group after the Monson storm to alert residents to housing options, has launched similar pages to help residents of Harrisburg, Ill. and the Indiana towns of Marysville and Henryville begin their recovery efforts.
On a separate local Facebook page Sunday, King suggested additional ideas to help the survivors in other states, including a possible fund-raiser.
“I think it’s been really cathartic for [Monson residents] to help them move forward themselves’’ by working to help others now, King said.
She received an e-mail Saturday from a spokeswoman for Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg thanking her for her efforts.
“The tornado was devastating, but the compassion and support given to us as a result has been one of the most awe-inspiring and emotional experiences we have ever been through,’’ Linda Sasser wrote in the message.
On Sunday, Kimberly Baker, 43, a Monson resident, said that about two dozen friends and neighbors were trying to obtain a supply truck to fill with surplus items the town received last year - including water, tools, and non-perishables - to send to areas affected last week.
“It’s important for the people in this community, I think, to give back,’’ Baker said.