HARVEYVILLE, Kan. (WIBW) -- Everywhere you turn in the small town of Harveyville, there’s damage and devastation.
One of the many residents dealing with the destruction is Frankie Smallwood. He was watching TV with his wife and two children when the tornado hit Tuesday night. He clung to his loved ones as strong winds picked up their mobile home. The trailer started rolling over with them inside.
"My wife was about to run across the street to her parents' house and right before she hit the door, the door flew off. I pulled her to the floor and we put the kids between us and held on to each other until it was over. We felt the trailer get picked up and it rolled over a couple of times and then disintegrated around us," Smallwood said Wednesday, as he started sorting through the rubble.
The family lost everything- clothing, toys and the rest of their belongings were blown all over the road. They were not seriously injured but Smallwood did receive a gash on his head that required several staples.
The Smallwoods and other victims are getting help from friends, family members and neighbors. Some Harveyville residents whose homes were not severely damaged spent the day going door to door to see what they could do to help.
"It’s just disheartening because you see all these houses that are destroyed and these are people that are close to you. They’re your family," said Christa Reynolds, a Harveyville resident who took the day off of work Wednesday to lend a hand anywhere she could.
"I’ve got friends, I’ve got former employers, I’ve got everybody else here in town asking what they can do to help. Everybody’s just trying to come together to do what they can. Everything that’s laying around here can be replaced. My wife and my kids- that’s all I really care about. We’re safe and I couldn’t ask for more," Frankie Smallwood told WIBW, shedding light on the massive community effort as victims begin to put their homes and lives back together.
Disaster Relief teams from the American Red Cross and Salvation Army offices in Topeka are also in Harveyville to help those affected.
"We’re providing meals for both the displaced families, the people of Harveyville, but also for the workers that are providing the disaster assistance. So we’re here to provide that essential, immediate response to a disaster. It’s a humbling experience being here because here we are people from the outside coming in to help and people will come up to you and they’ll grasp your hand and they’ll say ‘Thank you,'" said Ron Frank with the Red Cross.
"It’s devastating for the families that have lost their homes and their lives have been totally changed and uprooted. And right now, if we can help just a little bit to get that back on some type of even keel for them, we’re here to help. It doesn’t surprise me a bit to see people here in Kansas always coming together to reach out to those in need," added Tim Hall with the Salvation Army.
A team from Tyson out of Emporia is also helping make meals for everyone involved in the clean-up effort.
Red Cross officials said that a shelter for victims had not been set up as of Wednesday because those who could not stay in their homes were taken in by relatives and neighbors.
The Red Cross crew on site asked for help from restaurants willing to donate commercially prepared food.
"We're coordinating all of the meals being served here. The one thing that we are in need of are commercial food preparers- that would be restaurants and the like. If they could help donate meals to the people that are affected by the disaster and those that are working to help them, we would sure appreciate it," Ron Frank said.
Restaurants are asked to call the Red Cross office in Topeka at 785-234-0568. Home prepared foods or meals prepared by groups who are not licensed for commercial food preparation are not accepted.
Officials did not allow other volunteers on the scene Wednesday. It was reserved for residents to survey their property damage and for a full damage assessment of the town to be made. Beginning Thursday, March 1, volunteers should follow the instructions below. For ongoing updates, go to www.unitedwaytopeka.org or call 2-1-1 (United Way's 24/7 information line).
Check in at Mission Valley School (12913 Mission Valley Rd, Eskridge, Kan.)
· Volunteer Times:
o Thursday: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
o Friday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
o Saturday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
o Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.
Volunteers will complete liability release forms, receive wrist-bands, go through a safety briefing and be staged for transportation to Harveyville.
The first transport will leave Eskridge at approximately 1 p.m. In Harveyville, volunteers will receive their work assignments at the old school and meet with their job site coordinator. Volunteers will only be working on outdoor property and will not be allowed to enter any structure.
Buses will run back and forth to Eskridge, but all volunteer work will stop at 5 p.m to make sure the town is cleared before dark. On Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3, the work schedule will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the first transport leaving Eskridge at 9 a.m. On Sunday, the work schedule will be from noon to 5 p.m. with the first transport leaving at 1 p.m.
Organized groups with chainsaws or larger equipment will also need to report to the school each day for check-in. They will receive directions to drive into Harveyville for work assignments.
· Remember to dress appropriately, including hats, gloves and close-toed shoes
· Food and water will be available for lunch.
Monetary Donations are being collected through United Way of the Flint Hills. Donations can be made online using a credit card at www.uwfh.org and clicking the Donate Now link. Donations can be sent to United Way of the Flint Hills, Attn Harveyville Tornado Relief Fund, 702 Commercial St., Suite 2-Ej, Emporia, KS 66801. Phone: (620) 342-7564.
Regarding material donations, no clothing is needed. Companies or individuals with large equipment or construction materials should call 2-1-1 to register those items. If those items are needed, you will be contacted by officials in the Emergency Operations Center in Harveyville.