By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
A constant flow of donations is coming into the McNeill Volunteer Fire Department.
Piles of clothes were lined up in categories of men’s, women’s’ and children’s, all in an effort to separate the items donated by many locals concerned about the victims of Tuesday’s Christmas tornado.
McNeill Volunteer Fire Chief Thomas Calhoun said donations came from businesses in the area as well, including Sam’s Club in Slidell, La., Tractor Supply Company that included toiletries and shovels and rakes. People from as far away as Slidell and Gulfport have also stopped at the fire station with donations.
Tuesday’s tornado tore a path through the middle of the county along White Chapel, Henleyfield McNeill, Joe Smith and Sones Chapel Roads. As the storm moved north along that path the destruction the tornado wrought increased to the point of homes being torn down to the foundation.
Clothes and everyday home items were strewn through yards, leaving the survivors without every day items. The fire station has an abundance of clothes now due to the outpouring of donations, so what volunteers are asking for are those everyday items people take for granted. Those items include toothbrushes, toilet paper, deodorant, socks, underwear and even gift cards to local restaurants. Such donations would be the best kinds of donations at this point, said Nicole Speir, who was volunteering her time Thursday morning to sort through the piles of clothes and toys.
Canned goods and other non-perishable food items are also welcome donations, Speir said.
Red Cross volunteers set up a cold weather shelter at the Southern Baptist Association on McNeill Steephollow Road, but so far no family has taken refuge there, said Red Cross Kitchen Manager Mike Jordan. Jordan said he has heard most of the affected families have taken refuge at hotels, or possibly with families. The cold weather shelter may soon close if there is no need.
“We’re just here to help the people. Whatever we can do we will try to help them,” Jordan said.
However the Red Cross is still in the area and Thursday afternoon they went around to the affected homes and provided families with snacks and water who were out working to clean up the mess left by the tornado, Jordan said.
As the donations are being distributed to the affected families volunteers are catering those donations to things they will actually need, in addition to food. Thursday afternoon volunteer Amy Esslinger was preparing to bring one family food and clothes they can use, most of the clothes were picked out to fit the size of each family member. Esslinger said there are 22 families who were severely affected by the tornado, and each family will get food and other items they can use.
Speir said if anyone has questions about what kinds of items would be best to donate they can call her at 601-273-1343 or Mary at 601-273-1097.