After the destruction that wreaked havoc in Alabama on Wednesday night, northwest Georgia saw the storm coming. Residents prepared the best they could, taking refuge in basements and bathtubs, surrounded by loved ones and possessions held dear.
For most Cartersvillians, the storm blessedly passed over, proving to be an opportunity to take account of what mattered.
But for others, Wednesday night was terrifying and destructive.
According to Sheriff Millsap, , and for some Cartersvillians, that meant losing everything. Many families experienced the destruction of their homes, endured injuries and worry.
When the clouds lifted and the sun came up Thursday morning, the images and stories of so many homes lost spurred Cartersville into action.
Heroes are born in times of trouble. The morning after the storm, Cartersville became a city of heroes.
In an effort to bring some semblance of order to the myriad of pleas and offers for help, Cartersville residents Kris Conduff and Jacquelyn Ray started a Facebook page called Cartersville Cares early Thursday morning.
By Thursday evening, the Carterville Cares site had collected more than 1,300 members. But more impressive, they had attracted huge donations of food and water from Coke and MacDonald’s, as well as started a food donation center at Church at Liberty Square and a clothing donation center at Excel Christian Academy.
“At Excel, we’re excepting clothes donations, so people who have been affected can get whatever they may need,” said Kris Conduff, co-creator of Cartersville Cares. “We’re going to be working out of The Church at Liberty Square collecting food for rescue workers and victims of the tornado as well, at least for the next couple of days before we may move to another location.”
The clothing drive at Excel will go on as long as it is needed.
“The amount of time we’re able to continue helping depends 100 percent on the response we continue to get from the community,” said Conduff. “So far, it’s been overwhelming. There have been so many people trying to find out what they can do to help."
Because of the heroic generosity of donations and time, Cartersville Cares has been able to help dozens of individuals who lost everything they owned to the devastating storms.
For the most accurate and up-to-date information concerning donation times and particular needs Cartersville Cares is helping to address, visit their Facebook page.
The tornado that struck Cartersville on Wednesday evening was reportedly a half-mile wide, but the impact of volunteers and the outpouring of kindness and support for the victims has spread much much wider.
Cartersville resident Dean Kimberly decided to cancel his birthday celebrations Thursday in favor of volunteering to help tornado victims along with his girlfriend Crystal Canedy.
“It was a no brainer to go out and help clean up,” said Kimberly. “It was just so close and the death toll has been so high across the south. It was an overwhelming experience and something told us to go help.”
Dean and Crystal spent the entire day driving between Kingston and White, lending a hand wherever they could find a need.
“It was really bad in White. We came upon a couple of houses that were half gone. We just randomly asked if we could help clean up and we ended up talking to the home owners all about the tornado. We donated some water, clothes and dog food to a Bartow County check point and we’re taking some clothes to Excel too.”
Brothers Scott and Chaz Hersey had a wild time Wednesday night when they drove from Taylorsville to White in the midst of the stormy weather to help friends trapped in the basement of a collapsed house.
“We couldn’t just sit there knowing there were people who needed our help. Emergency crews were backed up and couldn’t get to everyone right away. So we wanted to do what we could,” said Scott.
Thankfully, by the time the brothers made it to White, the family had already been helped out of the wreckage. The two stayed in White well into the small hours of the morning helping the victims whose homes had just been swept away.
Chaz Hersey was able to return on Thursday to continue helping.
“It was the least I could do,” said Chaz. “It’s going to be months before people are able to build back up out there. Everything is leveled.”
One thing is for sure. The Cartersvillians whose have been so affected by these storms have already begun to rebuild their spirits.
And with the continued help of countless local heroes, the future is looking bright.