On March 2, 2012, the small town of Henryville, Ind., was thrust into the national spotlight when an EF4 tornado literally ripped it to shreds. The twister hit just after 3 p.m., minutes after school let out, completely destroying Henryville’s high school and middle school, killing 13 people statewide, and tearing apart homes and farms with winds that packed a 175 mph punch.
Ten miles away in Scottsburg, Ind., FFA members and other students were hunkered down in their schools, awaiting the deadly tornado. After the storm passed, Scottsburg FFA Chapter members emerged from Scottsburg High School and quickly realized they had a major opportunity to serve their neighbors.
“As soon as the storm was over, people from our community, along with our local fire department and EMS, went to rescue victims,” says Tori Clemmons, president of the Scottsburg FFA Chapter. “Many FFA members wanted to know what they could do to help. We knew other organizations would be collecting money and supplies for victims. Being an agriculture organization, it made sense to us to help in the area specifically related to livestock.”
Scottsburg FFA began collecting hay, feed, straw and fencing supplies for local farmers affected by the tornado. Cargill Nutrena donated two tons of feed, and two local feed stores also donated supplies.
“We sent e-mails to other FFA chapters about what we were doing, and the North Decatur FFA brought down five truckloads of hay,” Clemmons says. “A lot of other chapters have sent monetary donations to buy feed and fencing.”
“I had always heard the quote, ‘There’s no joy like the joy of serving others.’ And this experience really taught us what that meant.”
Clemmons and other members recorded a radio commercial and put up fliers at the local Red Cross to get the word out to the farming community.
“Our relief project not only helped provide livestock animals with food and eased the loss of their owners, but also brought people from all over Indiana together to serve others,” Clemmons says. “I was astounded with the kindness offered from everyone involved. We’ve been in every local community helping, and people I don’t even know have come up and hugged me. They’re so grateful.”
The relief project also strengthened the bond among members of the Scottsburg chapter.
“I had always heard the quote, ‘There’s no joy like the joy of serving others,’ ” Clemmons says. “And this experience really taught us what that meant.”
Ever thought abut what you would do if disaster struck your own community?
Clemmons offers this advice:
1. Don’t rush.
“After a disaster strikes, we all want to volunteer to help, but as wonderful as volunteering is, it can also be very dangerous,” she says. “Wait for the chaos to settle. Then act.”
2. Create a plan.
“Decide what you want to do, and how you’ll make it happen,” Clemmons says. “Things might not go exactly how you plan, but people will be more willing to help if they see the direction of your cause.”
3. Enlist the help of others.
“Don’t try to do it all yourself. Being a leader is about learning to share responsibilities,” Clemmons continues. “Anyone can have great ideas, but it takes support from others to get results.”
– Jessica Mozo