Texas group donates to Hattiesburg tornado victims

Texas group donates to Hattiesburg tornado victims

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Five weeks after the deadly EF-3 tornado hit the Pine Belt, volunteers are still crossing state lines to help residents recover from the storm.

Volunteers with "Angels Serving with a Purpose" drove a moving truck from Houston, Texas to hand out donations Saturday at East Jerusalem Baptist Church. The trip is about 430 miles.

Organizer Virginia Valentine said when she saw the destruction from the tornado on January 21st, she knew she needed to help.

"I started by getting my own personal things in a storage area and then as I was telling people I was going to Hattiesburg," said Valentine. "I would say 'look at CNN, go to USA Today' and that's when they said, 'I want to help, too.'"

Valentine said she would go to different places in her community of Cypress to pick up donations. Volunteers left the Houston-area Friday morning at 5 a.m. Valentine said with traffic, the trip took about 12 hours, but that wasn't going to put them down. "I said I don't care, we are headed to Hattiesburg."

The yard of East Jerusalem Baptist Church on Tipton Street was filled with clothes, shoes, furniture, home goods and toys early Saturday morning. Volunteers and residents of the tornado-damaged community shared a prayer before handing out donations.

"It was devastating, I couldn't believe it and its still horrible right now," said resident Sylvia Hawthorne. "We appreciate everyone helping us out through the storm."

Angela Davis said she had some damage to her home, but was lucky compared to her neighbors. At the church Saturday morning, she was able to get decorations for her home, as well as towels and cleaning supplies as they continue to rebuild.

"It's been kind of stressful, but we've been blessed through it all and highly favored of the lord," said Davis.

Valentine said the group hopes to return to Hattiesburg next month with a new load of donations as recovery continues in the community.

"After the storm, after the tornado and the rain, the sun will shine," said Valentine.