Disaster relief fund created to help with long-term needs

by Sonja J. Keith

Exxon Mobil recently donated $125,000 to a newly created long-term disaster relief fund to help Faulkner County communities impacted by an April 27 tornado.

“I am excited to announce that a fund has been set up at the Community Foundation to address needs that will continue as Vilonia and Mayflower recover from the April 27 F4 tornadoes that devastated their communities,” said Heather Larkin, president and CEO of the Arkansas Community Foundation.

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. Organizations working on the ground in the affected communities will be able to fill out a simple application to be considered for funding.

At a press conference at the United Services Building in East Conway, Larkin explained that this is not the first time the Community Foundation has helped respond to natural disaster in Arkansas. “In the spring of 2007, we administered a similar fund in Dumas that over the following 24 months made grants for recovery and rebuilding.” Larkin said. “That experience taught us a lot, and it crystallized what we all really know: the needs of these communities affected by the April 27 tornadoes won’t end with food, water and shelter in the short term. There is a long difficult road ahead.”

A committee of Faulkner County residents will review and select recipients for grants from the fund. “They will determine the best use for these funds,” Larkin said. “We expect to begin making grants in about 90 days, but grants may continue over many months as new needs emerge.”

Larkin also announced that Exxon contributed $125,000 to the fund. Karen Tyrone, vice president of operations for Exxon Mobil Pipleline Co., presented the donation to Julie LaRue, executive director of the Community Foundation’s Faulkner County Office, and local board member Charlie Weaver of Vilonia.

Weaver thanked Exxon for the contribution and added that the devastation is hard to put into words. His home outside of Vilonia was among those damaged. “You can’t realize what has happened until you look at it,” he said. “We’ll see that the money is put to good use.”

According to Larkin, the grants could be used to address a variety of needs – from rebuilding infrastructure to baseball fields.

“The resources that these communities and our neighbors will need in the coming months is overwhelming,” Larkin said. “As the immediate needs are met and the outpouring of support decreases, I ask that we – those of us who won’t face the devastation every day – don’t move on too quickly. That we remember that much much more is left to do.”

The Faulkner County Disaster Recovery Fund provides a way for companies and individuals to give in support of the long-term recovery of communities affected by the April 27 tornadoes. Gifts to the fund can be made at arcf.org or by sending a check to the Faulkner County Disaster Recovery Fund at Arkansas Community Foundation, 1400 W. Markham, Suite 206, Little Rock, AR 72201.