Salvation Army in new phase for Hattiesburg area tornado recovery

PETAL, MS (WLOX) - More than a week after three tornadoes hit the Hattiesburg area, disaster relief agencies and local governments are making the shift from emergency response to recovery.

Forrest County workers are removing rubble residents can manage to get to the side of the road and taking it to a special landfill for construction materials.

The county's road manager said right now he has one crew working in Petal and four in Hattiesburg, but he says there is so much damage he wouldn't venture to guess how much still needs to be picked up.

The Salvation Army is also helping people clean up the mess the tornado left behind. Initially, the non-profit agency helped with cold drinks and hot meals but over time officials said needs change.

"As people move back into their homes, as power is restored they need that feeling of self-sufficiency," said Mark Jones of the Salvation Army. "So the Salvation Army food boxes and the clean up kits provide them, we hope, with that resource to move towards recovery."

College students from the University of Guelph in Canada volunteered to go house to house giving out Salvation food boxes and cleanup kits. The students said the resiliency of the Mississippi people is something they'll never forget.

Natalie Banaszak, a volunteer, said,  "I think the strength of the community and morale. How you can keep your spirits really high and stay positive in a time of real tragedy is something that's truly inspiring and made a big impact on my life."

"I had no idea what community really means to me until I came here," said Della Rose, a volunteer. "I want to bring that back because I feel like we're not as close as some of the people here. Everyone really comes together and helps out. Everyone is so friendly where I feel we're more standoffish where I'm from. So I want to change that a little bit."

Inside each box is a personalized note of encouragement.

"When you have the issue of what comes tomorrow, the secrecy of the unknown after a disaster, we want people to know that someone is going to stand beside them, praying for them, caring for them. And those notes come with a strong emotional, spiritual impact," Jones said.

When the debris is gone, Salvation Army officials said their caseworkers will still be around helping with long term recovery.

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