By Jason A. Smith
More than 40 Henry residents gathered in a neighboring community over the weekend, to assist victims of storms that ripped through portions of the Southeast, including the Southern Crescent area.
Local volunteers went to School Road in Spalding County Saturday, to clear debris left by the recent tornadoes. Henry Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis, spearheaded the endeavor. The team of volunteers she took to the area worked for about six hours, she said.
"The house we spent the most time on, was a couple who had no homeowner's insurance," Mathis said. "We were able to completely clear all the trees from their yard, and put them along the roadway for Spalding County Public Works to pick up later. Some of them were so large, you couldn't reach your arms around them."
Mathis said the volunteers were split among different areas in Spalding County, as well as Lamar County, which was also affected by the tornadoes.
"The bulk of the volunteers were on Old Hwy 3, in Sunnyside," she said. "Some were over on School Road, at the Christian Women's Center. Additional volunteers were at other homes on the same street, doing similar work. Thanks to three volunteers, we had three Bobcats working on [one] street, and were able to get a lot more accomplished."
Don Dunlap, a business teacher at Patrick Henry High School, was among those who volunteered for the clean-up. He and other members of the Henry team, loaded Bobcats full of heavy equipment, to be hauled away from the site.
There were lots of trees on houses," said Dunlap. "It was amazing, the amount of damage that was done to these homes."
Dunlap said the volunteers' eagerness to help the Spalding community carried over into Sunday. Some of them returned to continue their efforts.
Mathis said Henry's relief effort was sparked by a telephone conversation she had Thursday with Spalding County Commission Chairman Eddie Freeman. "He said the damage was massive, and they couldn't respond to all the areas as quickly as they wanted to," Mathis said.
The tornado entered the southwest corner of Spalding County around midnight Wednesday, heading northeast, said Freeman, in an interview with the Henry Daily Herald last Friday.
Freeman said the destruction was "tremendous," and that an elderly man and his caregiver perished in the storm.
"We have 400 homes that are either, damaged or destroyed, and 14 businesses that are damaged or destroyed," said Freeman.
He added that firefighters from Clayton County came to Spalding to provide assistance, in the wake of the tornado.
Elsewhere in the Atlanta area, Kroger grocery stores are encouraging customers and employees to contribute to tornado-relief efforts, by making donations to the American Red Cross. Customers can round up their purchases to the nearest whole dollar at all Atlanta Division Kroger locations, which include stores in Georgia, South Carolina, northern Alabama and eastern Tennessee.
"Our hearts are with our friends and neighbors in north Georgia, Huntsville, [Ala.], and across the Southeast, who have been devastated by this horrendous natural disaster," said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications and public relations for Kroger's Atlanta Division. "Our customers and communities come together during times such as these, and we are so appreciative. Their generosity truly makes a difference in the lives of so many people."