On Thursday, the Arkansas Community Foundation announced the creation of the Faulkner County Disaster Recovery Fund, which will provide funding for intermediate and long-term rebuilding and recovery efforts in Faulkner County communities affected by the April 27 tornadoes.

In the spring of 2007, the Community Foundation established a similar fund in Dumas that made grants over the next 24 months for recovery and rebuilding.

"That experience taught us a lot and crystallized what we all in this room already know," said Heather Larkin, president and CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation. "The needs of these communities affected on April 27th will not end with food, water and shelter in the immediate short term. There is a long and difficult road ahead."

The Faulkner County Disaster Recovery Fund was created to provide funding for intermediate and long term needs to help Mayflower, Vilonia and other communities rebuild.

"The best part is that grants from this recovery fund will be made by local folks," Larkin said.

The Community Foundation is in the process of convening a committee that will be made up of Faulkner County residents.

"They will determine the best use for these funds on an ongoing basis," Larkin said.

Organizations working on the ground over the intermediate and long-term will be able to apply through an application process to the local committee who will then disperse the grants as they see fit.

Grants will not go out until July or August at the earliest, Larkin said, as this is an intermediate and long-term fund.

ExxonMobil called the Community Foundation days after the tornado expressing an interest in wanting to help with the recovery and rebuilding process, Larkin said.

As of Thursday, the oil and gas company was the first and largest donor to the fund.

Karen Tyrone, vice president of operations for ExxonMobil, presented a $125,000 check to provide seed money for the fund.

Tyrone said ExxonMobil is very thankful to have an organization like the Community Foundation that knows how to administer such funds.

"They know much better than we do how to get these funds to the right people and the right needs," she said. "We’re thrilled they’re putting together a committee of local people who will know where to apply these funds to make the biggest impact."

Vilonia resident Charles Weaver, owner of Weaver Bailey Contractors and Webco, is one of the first selected to serve on the local Faulkner County Disaster Fund steering committee.

"We will see that the money is put in the right places because there are a lot of people who don’t have insurance whose houses are destroyed and they really need some help," he said.

Weaver said the community is helping, but he encourages companies like Exxon to contribute.

Exxon’s donation has already leveraged other gifts from entities and individuals including $10,000 from retired Acxiom executive Jerry Adams and $2,500 from the Arkansas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners.

"As the immediate needs are met and the short term outpouring of support dies away, which we know that it will, I ask and hope that we, those of us who won’t face the devastation everyday, don’t move away too quickly — that we remember that there is so much more that needs to be done in Faulkner County," Larkin said.

Those who want to contribute to the Faulkner County Disaster Fund can visit the Community Foundation online at www.arcf.org or contact the Faulkner County office at (501) 932-0390.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1215. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)