Picking up the pieces

Wed, 04/04/2007 - 3:39pm
By: The Citizen

Clothes Less Traveled aids Americus tornado victims 1

Local residents come to aid of Americus tornado victims

When a tragic tornado struck Americus, Ga. a month ago, it destroyed not only the hospital, but much of the city’s most beautiful structures as well as hundreds of the 200-plus year old live oaks that gave the community the antebellum flavor tourists go to see. Authorities put out a cry for help. The emergency was so grave that President Bush made a trip down to see the damage. During a press conference in the devastated area he issued a plea; "Some people are going to need your help," he said. "I would ask you out of the generosity of your heart to help the folks down here."

Clothes Less Traveled aids Americus tornado victims 2

Help came pouring in to the small south Georgia community as stories spread from residents present to past. Emails, pictures and internet blogs told the story of devastation in words and pictures. Two Peachtree City residents who previously lived in Americus put their heads together and came up with a plan to help their former neighbors and friends. Mark Baldwin, a local Ameriprise Financial advisor who is still connected to the Americus community through his business, called his friends here in Peachtree City and in Americus to see what he could do, “I just started calling anyone I could think of to get help.” One of those people was Lyda Miller, another Peachtree City transplant from Americus who has been involved in volunteer service in both communities. “Right away I thought of calling the folks at Clothes Less Traveled to see if they might have some extra clothes we could send down,” she said. After a series of calls, Jennie Loper, manager of the store, agreed that they could help. She along with about 20 volunteers went to work getting the items ready for distribution.

Loper, Jennie

Loper explained that, “When you work in donations, you never know what you’re going to get, days or even weeks may go by and you may not get any maternity clothes then the next week you get a lot of them.” To provide a good variety of clothing, the volunteers were instructed to go through each department of the store and take one third of the clothes to make sure they had men’s, women’s and children’s things. They also included backpacks and other non-clothing items that would be useful. Then everything was put into large bags, labeled and loaded into a van. “Clothes Less Traveled operates with a crew of 124 volunteers per month,” said Loper. “That may sound like a lot but we could take a lot more volume and get a lot more done if we had more volunteers.”

Clothes Less Traveled aids Americus tornado victims 3

On the Americus front, Herb Mason, a Red Cross worker and long time friend and client of Baldwin, confirmed the need for clothing. Twenty-three houses were lost during the storm along with the personal possession of the inhabitants of these homes making this a primary and immediate concern. The Seventh Day Adventist Church in Americus spearheaded the clothing collection and distribution with the help of some prisoners from Sumter Correctional Institution. Baldwin drove the clothes down, and with the help of the church workers and prisoners the project was completed.

Clothes Less Traveled aids Americus tornado victims 5

When President Bush put out his call for help it was a simple appeal for people to help people. This is how one community responded to the needs of another in an effective, practical way with cooperation at every level. Many people played a role, some who will never meet each other but the work got done when each one did their part. In the words of Jennie Loper, “This may be the hardest job I have ever had but it is definitely the best, to see what some people’s needs are will break your heart, but to be a part of making things better is such a positive experience.”

login to post comments