Louisiana charities help Mississippi tornado victims

The town of Rolling Fork was among the Mississippi communities devastated by a deadly tornado...
The town of Rolling Fork was among the Mississippi communities devastated by a deadly tornado on March 24.(Action News 5)
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 7:11 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The devastation is widespread in the aftermath of a deadly tornado that swept through Rolling Fork and other parts of Mississippi last Friday night, and Louisianans are in the area to help the survivors.

Maj. Christopher Thornhill, area commander for the Salvation Army of Greater New Orleans, said, “Right now, we are at our residential camp in Lexington (Miss.) and we’re using that as our base of operation.”

Thornhill said tractor-trailers are arriving from food distributors as well as from his relief organization’s own stock of items, which are being distributed to tornado victims in Rolling Fork, Black Hawk, Summerfield and Wynona.

He said beside distributing food, water and other essentials, his personnel hope to help those who lost everything to not give up.

“To each person that comes to our canteens or relieves a bottle of water or a piece of food, whatever that looks like to come from the Salvation Army, that there is hope,” Thornhill said. “There is a better day ahead. It may not look like it right now, but there is one coming.”

Some 30 miles away from Lexington is Yazoo City. That is where Jeff Petkevicius, executive director of United by BBQ, has set up to cook and feed tornado victims and first responders.

“We’re cooking,” he said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of sausage on this pit right here. We’re going to do some dirty rice. Then tonight, after we take that off, we’re going to throw pork butts on there.”

He planned to feed a thousand people on Tuesday.

“What we’re here to do is to feed and bring some hope to all those people whose lives have just been decimated,” Petkevicius said. “I’m partnering up with Operation Barbecue Relief. So, United Barbeque and Operation Barbecue, you know, we’re feeding whatever the numbers are -- a thousand, 2,000 people a day.”

Thornhill said monetary donations help organizations such as the Salvation Army.

“Funds give us the opportunity to be able to help in a more fluid way,” he said. “If we receive 12 tractor-trailers full of water, there’s only so much water someone might need. Even though there might be a need for water, we’re talking about small communities.”

Witnesses said the tornado ravaged entire communities within minutes.

“The numbers really don’t matter,” Petkevicius said. “What matters is the people whose lives have been turned upside down are getting a nice, love-packed meal, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The relief workers said it is rewarding to help others during their time of need.

“It is not about a pat on the back,” Thornhill said. “It’s definitely not about the money. It’s about being able to impact the lives of those who’ve been hurt.”

To donate to the Salvation Army, click here.

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