Leader Blues

Monday, March 05, 2007

TOP STORY >>Group taking donations to storm victims

IN SHORT: Military spouse heads relief effort for Dumas, collecting until March 10.

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Donations are being sought for victims of the Feb. 24 tornado that ripped through Dumas, spearheaded by a Hurricane Katrina survivor now living in the Jacksonville area.

“I know what it’s like to lose everything,” Nancy Franchek said. “We lost everything we owned and got help from people we didn’t know.

“Dumas is two hours away, and I thought we could help,” Franchek added.

A military spouse, she is collecting items at the conference center on Little Rock Air Force Base until March 10.
Non-perishable food items, toiletries and any other usable items can be dropped off from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Franchek said people could also give cash donations or gift cards if they would like.

Dumas officials requested that no clothes be donated, but they do need furniture, kitchen items, cleaning supplies and small appliances, Franchek said.

“The sheriff there said they needed everything – I know what that’s like,” Franchek said.

Franchek and her family relocated to Jacksonville from Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina last August.

Franchek made a “heart-wrenching” trip on Tuesday with her co-coordinator, Senior Airman Abby Smith, to deliver a small truckload of needed items and found a family in need to adopt.

“They have a house to go to, but nothing else. The husband is a firefighter, the mom is a teacher, their 21-year-old son is in Iraq for the war, and they also have a 12-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy,” Franchek said.

Franchek’s first delivery had baby items, dishes, blankets and a twin bed, all of which went straight to families in need.
“The command center’s commander had a family that needed the baby stuff we brought and they took it over to them,” Franchek said.

“The twin bed went to the family we adopted; their house…. it’s unbelievable, it was pretty bad, but they were lucky, they had a house to go to,” Franchek said.

Those interested in donating who cannot get on base, should contact Franchek at 501-259-6330 and she will arrange pick-up.

The National Weather Service rated the tornado that hit the town of 5,300 as an F-3, with winds estimated at between 158 and 207 miles per hour.

Its path of destruction ran five miles long and a half-mile wide.

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who visited Dumas last Sunday, said it looked as though “high explosives” had been set off in some of the homes destroyed. Gov. Mike Beebe cut short his trip to Washington to tour the damage Monday. Rep. Mike Ross, whose 4th District includes Dumas, accompanied Beebe.