Storm victims touched by volunteers’ efforts
Wayne Smith uses a chainsaw to chop up one of several trees that fell in the yard of Mount Branson resident Jay Reese, 84, while Reese’s daughters, Sue Smith and Marie Wilson, gather debris.
The Rev. Tim Kidwell, pastor of the Branson Church of Christ, said he couldn’t help but smile when he saw more than 50 volunteers show up Saturday to help his church get back on its feet.
“It just makes a guy show his teeth,” Kidwell said. “You smile, and you can’t stop smiling, seeing all these people, happy to be here to work.”
The church itself sustained relatively minor damage, but the tornado left its property a tangled mess of fallen trees and limbs. About 10 of the volunteers were Kidwell’s own parishioners, while the rest came from other Churches of Christ across Missouri and Arkansas.
“With the equipment and people they brought, they did in three hours what would have taken us a few weeks,” Kidwell said.
He said the volunteers moved out into other parts of the tornado-hit community after cleaning up around the church.
They weren’t alone. On nearby Maddux Street, Collin Suire, 13, and his parents, Gordon and Mellodie, were helping a stranger gather logs from his yard.
“We live like a mile from where (the tornado) hit,” Gordon Suire said. “We feel like we were spared, and that’s why we’re helping others.
Lisa Herchenroeder, a nursing professor at College of the Ozarks, got choked up Saturday as she watched dozens of volunteers cleaning up her yard and Hope Park, a mobile home park on Mount Branson she owns with her husband, Gary.
“It feels like a miracle is happening,” she said. “I looked out here, and I thought this is two years worth of work. I just started praying, and people started showing up. If I have to be in an area where tragedy is going to strike, this is where I want to be.”
Volunteers came from all over, including about 30 of her daughter’s classmates at Trinity Christian Academy, who came to pitch in Friday. The next day, another group of volunteers about 30 strong came from C of O.
“We’re just helping out our own,”said Marvin Schoenecke, dean of administration.
Both Gary and Lisa Herchenroeder work for C of O. A different group went to the home of another employee, Mike Smith, Saturday. His house off T Highway was reportedly in need of major repairs after the twister.
Smith’s was one of as many as 200 homes in unincorporated Taney County affected by the tornado. Of that number, around 40 have been ruled “permanently uninhabitable” and must be razed, according to the Office of Emergency Management.
“We’ll continue to be helping the community, going forward,” Schoenecke said. “But this weekend, we wanted to help our folks who are property owners get back on their feet.”
Around 80 students and staff turned out for the volunteer effort, according to Schoenecke.
The Herchenroeders’ house was hit hard by the tornado, sustaining massive damage to the roof and possible structural damage. All of the trailers in Hope Park were affected, and at least two will likely need to be demolished.
The mobile home park wasn’t insured, but Lisa Herchenroeder said they hope to rebuild anyway.
“Hope Park is a wonderful community,” she said. “It will take some time, but we will move forward as God provides a way.”