May 17, 2017 Edition

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Community aids in flood relief

Ruelene Foley (from left), Debby Rogers and Peggy Coker Maryman check in donations at the flood relief shelter when it was originally located at the Walnut Ridge Community Center.

Aubree Hughart
TD Intern

Flooding during recent weeks has devastated parts of Northeast Arkansas. Waters continued to rise, breaking record highs as the days passed. Many communities were not prepared for the amount of destruction that would plague citizens.

Fortunately, many area residents, businesses and churches decided to band together in order to provide temporary flood relief. Numerous volunteers worked closely with the Walnut Ridge Fire Department to set up a shelter for anyone displaced from their home due to flooding.

Originally, the shelter was located at the Walnut Ridge Community Center. Sunday night, the shelter hosted its last overnight guest. The shelter and collected supplies were then moved to the Walnut Ridge Fire Department.

The American Red Cross provided 50 cots to get the shelter running. Walmart of Walnut Ridge donated a 60-inch television for victims and volunteers to watch the news and the weather. The store also donated various supplies needed throughout the duration of the shelter.

Aaron's of Walnut Ridge donated two refrigerators for food storage. Food donations were provided by Hay's Grocery.

Local churches provided tables, chairs, baby formula, towels, clothes and more for use at the shelter.

Help was also found outside the immediate community. Ritter Communications of Jonesboro donated phone chargers and surge protectors. Unilever donated multiple travel-size hygiene products.

Honda of Jonesboro gave a monetary donation and is continuing a fundraiser throughout the summer. Burch Vending and Kiss the Cook, both of Paragould, provided various food items and made monetary donations.

Businesses and residents of the Batesville, Cabot, Newport, Highland and other surrounding areas have also assisted by donating gift cards, towels, clothing and other needed items.

Volunteer Ruelene Foley said, with tear-filled eyes, that she was overwhelmed by the amount of support shown throughout this hardship. "I just want to show that we are so, so grateful to everyone who donated their products, money or time. We could not have made it through this without them."

During operation, the shelter was able to assist nine displaced individuals, as well as more than two dozen National Guard members working toward relief efforts.

Looking to the future, the community has used this experience to help make a plan for future emergency situations. A room is being used at the Walnut Ridge Fire Department to store supplies that would be immediately needed in a similar event. Volunteers have also put together a more efficient plan in order to be even more prepared for any future natural disaster.

Currently, many remaining supplies are being transported to the Randolph County shelter. The Randolph County shelter remains open and busy as more extensive flooding in the area could leave residents without homes for weeks to come.

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