News Release

Latter-day Saints Provide Disaster Relief to Tennessee Tornado Victims   


Latter-day Saint volunteers extended a helping hand to those in dire circumstances in the wake of tornado damage in central Tennessee.

In mid-March, more than 1,200 helpers from Tennessee and Kentucky came to provide disaster cleanup, resources for victims, uplifting music and even photograph restoration.

The deadly storm killed over three dozen people along its 50-mile path on March 2 and 3, 2020.

“It’s like a war zone, seeing all the debris laying around,” described Randi Elliot, a local Latter-day Saint congregant who was affected by the storm.

Elliot was sleeping when she first heard the tornado hit.

“The window in our bedroom blew out,” she said. “We had glass everywhere … the house across the street was flattened.”

“Until you see it when you’re there with your feet on the ground and you see the devastation up close, you have no idea how they lost so few people,” said Wendy Bird, president of a local Relief Society, an organization for Latter-day Saint women.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined people of other religious and charitable organizations to repair damaged homes, distribute hygiene kits, cut down fallen trees and remove other types of debris.

During the disaster relief effort, local Church meetinghouses were converted into command centers in the Nashville, Murfreesboro and Cookeville areas.

Latter-day Saints also gifted storehouse supplies, including cleaning and hygiene kits, to local charities and government agencies.

Among the Helping Hands volunteers who donated over 9,500 hours of cleanup time, some provided unique services.

“I started a Facebook group called ‘Found in the Storm,’ and we made it a place where it’s just for photos and things to be found,” said Sadie Barrientos, a Helping Hands volunteer from Cookeville.

According to Barrientos, Tennessee Tech University took interest in her efforts and decided to facilitate photography enhancement and digitizing.

Barrientos explained that she’s not only looking for photos. “As volunteers are coming into the building, we asked them to collect … wedding dresses, baby hats, anything that we think is salvageable that could potentially be returned to the people who lost everything.”

Among those providing unique services was Jane Turvaville, a volunteer from Cookeville. Turvaville is a pianist and was asked to provide music for those providing cleanup services.

To accomplish this, volunteers painstakingly lifted a piano from one of the local churches into a trailer. They visited many different destination spots for Turvaville to uplift those who were assisting with the cleanup.

“I played all kinds of hymns — Protestant hymns, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hymns,” Turvaville said.

“Workers were there, and there were lots of them from all different faiths and with all different-colored T-shirts,” Bird said. “And they all expressed the desire to serve their Savior.”

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