Mayflower Rising: Remembering loss, celebrating recovery

by Sonja J. Keith

A special time of reflection and celebration is planned in Mayflower to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly April 27 tornado.

The anniversary event – titled Mayflower Rising – is planned 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Frank Pierce Memorial Park in Mayflower. The theme is “Remember Our Loss, Celebrate Our Recovery.” It will include special music, free food, activities for children, special guest speakers and a time for prayer. In the event of bad weather, it will be moved to Mayflower Middle School.

The City of Vilonia is planning a public reception 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, April 27, at the Vilonia High School cafeteria to mark the one-year anniversary of the tornado. Those who died as a result of the storm will be remembered. There will also be a look back at where the community was a year ago, where it is today and where the city is planning to be in the future. The city’s first-responders will also be recognized. For more information, call Vilonia City Hall at 501.796.8185.

Nearly a year after the tornado ripped through Central Arkansas, leaving death and destruction in its path, residents are still recovering and working to create a “new normal,” according to Janice Mann, recovery coordinator for the Interfaith and Partners Disaster Recovery Alliance in Mayflower.

The alliance is a long-term recovery group representing 20 local organizations, agencies and churches that works to meet unmet needs caused by disaster. “We try to bring people back to their pre-storm place,” Janice said.

Some residents did not have insurance while others did not have sufficient coverage. Others have received FEMA assistance but have unmet needs. “We still have folks who need repairs and other assistance and we are working to get them help,” Janice said. “Recovery is over when the last need is met or the resources run out.”

The Alliance has 400 names on its master client list, with more than $1 million in donations used to assist 200 of those clients. Few of the cases have been closed as the Alliance continues to follow up and check on those affected by the storm, even beyond Faulkner County. “We don’t close a case until we know they are taken care of,” Janice said.

“We’re still working and are going to be working for a while.”

Volunteers are still needed in the Mayflower area. In addition to home construction and repairs, there is still more cleanup and debris removal needed in the Mayflower area. Janice said skilled groups can help with repairs and smaller construction projects like porches, storage buildings, etc., while non-skilled groups can help clean up debris or plant trees, shrubs, etc. “We want to get folks back to a new normal.”

Janice expressed her appreciation to the Alliance’s partners who have supported the group’s efforts with funding and service. She is also thankful for the support of the group’s government partners.

While she is appreciative of donors and faith-based contributors who have made assistance possible, one of Janice’s concerns is funding for the ongoing tornado recovery efforts. "I’m not sure how long these funders can hold out. We need new funding resources.”

Janice said as part of the long-term recovery and healing process, it is important for the community to take time to remember the loss – physical as well as loss of life – that occurred on April 27, 2014, while celebrating the progress that has been made. “It is a time for those affected to come together to reflect and celebrate our progress.”

For more information on Mayflower Rising or the Alliance, call 501.205.6873.