VILONIA — They may not be visible along the Highway 64 Business route, but there are many houses off the less beaten path still sitting in disrepair from the deadly tornado that ravaged this city a year ago Wednesday night.
"The people in Quail Hollow are OK. They have come back," said Sandy Towles, case supervisor with the Vilonia Disaster Recovery Alliance. "But just drive around off the beaten path. Go to the Black Oak area. There is still a lot of damage and there are a lot of people still needing help and our funds are running low."
At least 608 houses were damaged by the tornado, Towles said, and at least 24 families are documented with the alliance as still needing help. Several more families haven’t registered with the agency, she discovered recently.
"Our efforts are turned to finding help for 24 or so families," Towles said. "We are running short on funds so we need donations and we also need volunteers with equipment to help with clean-up before we can do much more. We have a list of 22 families that just need help with clean-up."
Some of the people needing clean-up assistance are elderly or have health issues, Towles said.
In addition to alliance fundraising, the American Red Cross is trying to recoup some of the money it used to help Vilonia residents in the weeks following the tornado, Towles said.
Red Cross representatives will be in Vilonia today conducting a telethon. The event is from 2 to 7 p.m. at the senior center and Vilonia residents and city employees will man phone lines, Towles said.
Surveys conducted by Catholic Charities just after the tornado determined that about 100 families needed assistance. After the Vilonia Disaster Recovery Alliance began operation, Catholic Charities handed about 50 of the cases to the alliance and provided some funding to the agency to help with start-up costs.
The alliance, a division of the Vilonia Ministerial Alliance, has helped an additional 15 families, Towles said. Some of the families received insurance assistance but it wasn’t enough to complete rebuilding and restoration projects, she explained.
"Life went on and a lot of them have had other complications, setbacks of several varieties," Towles said.
For instance, one man has endured three heart attacks since the tornado. His family is living in a 700-square-footmobile home. Prior to the tornado, they lived in an 1,800-square-foot doublewide trailer. They have only asked for assistance in cleaning up debris, and Towles said that was only after she left her business card at their house with a message to call her if they needed help.
The alliance has received a lot of assistance from the community, Towles said. XTO Energy Co. donated two mobile homes. Other businesses such as Vilonia Medal Works allow the organization to purchase items at cost. Churches and individuals have made donations, too.
Alliance volunteers plan to keep the organization open at least once per week and be available "for a disaster of any sort," Towles said.
For assistance or to make donations, call 796-2708.