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In Ravaged West Liberty, Volunteers Drive Recovery

Release date: 
March 22, 2012
Release Number: 

WEST LIBERTY, Ky. -- Tears well in the corners of Anna Roller’s eyes as she watches Mennonite volunteers clear debris from her once heavily-wooded property.

Anna Roller considers herself lucky.

The tornados and storms that destroyed most of the business district and many homes in this tiny Kentucky town damaged or destroyed over 2800 homes across the Commonwealth. The storms left the Rollers’ house mostly intact but crushed their garage and turned a hardwood-studded hillside into a pile of kindling.

The folks helping Anna Roller are volunteer members of a Mennonite Disaster Services team using bobcats, tractors and log skidders to remove splintered trees from the Rollers’ property and other damaged homes in West Liberty.

Mennonite Disaster Services is one of the more than 250 volunteer agencies that rushed to aid West Liberty and Kentucky following the tornado.   FEMA helps the Commonwealth of Kentucky match volunteers with storm-damaged areas where help is needed.

"The volunteer response has truly been amazing. So many people stepping up to help their neighbors and strangers helping strangers," said Jim Garrett, Volunteer Coordinator for Kentucky Emergency Management. He continued, “This is just a testament to the goodness of the American Spirit!"

"Seeing volunteers come from all over the country to help people in Kentucky is one of the many rewards of my job," said Libby Turner, the federal officer in charge of recovery operations in Kentucky. “It is truly heart-warming to see how many folks want to help people who are hurting.”

West Liberty University near Wheeling, W.Va., provided transportation and equipment for a group of their students to come to the town in Kentucky that shares the name of their college and help the town begin its long recovery.

“Helping people who need us gives us all joy,” said Peggy Morris, an 80-year old from Cadiz, Ky., and a member of a Kentucky Baptist Convention team stacking broken trees and limbs left by the tornado in the yard of another of the almost 850 homes damaged or destroyed in Morgan County and West Liberty.

Dee Bost, Farah Price and Carolyn Kenney and six other members of their church in Searcy, Ark., left at 5 a.m. the Sunday morning following the West Liberty tornado. After a 10-hour drive, they settled in to help the people of West Liberty get their lives back together.

"I don’t know what I would have done if these folks had not come to help us clean up," said Anna Roller.  "I really don’t know how we would have been able to get up all the trees and trash."

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FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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