KING WILLIAM — Residents, businesses and schools have donated hundreds of items and hours to aid victims in Tappahannock after an F3 tornado ripped through Essex County.
The Tappahannock relief donation center at 1616 Tappahannock Blvd. ran out of room for donated supplies only a few days after the storm because of the outpouring of support, King William Volunteer Fire and Rescue treasurer Rodney Inge said.
On Feb. 24, a massive storm front pushed through the mid-Atlantic states, creating tornadoes and severe storms as it traveled northeast. A tornado that cut through King and Queen County and into the Northern Neck produced 140 mph winds, severely damaged or destroyed at least 30 homes in Essex County and left 25 residents injured, according to the Virginia State Police and the National Weather Service.
In the wake of the storm, surrounding localities reached out to help victims recover and rebuild.
King William County is continuing to make pointed efforts to support the victims, even though the Tappahannock shelter is full with supplies and nonperishable food items.
The relief shelter began accepting only gift cards and monetary donations Feb. 27.
"It's great to see the community and folks come together with one common goal," Inge said.
After the storm, the rescue squad spent almost 12 hours in Tappahannock aiding search and rescue efforts and helping remove debris, Inge said. The department sent an engine, ambulance and brush truck to the scene.
Inge said the fire department began requesting community donations the day after the storm. Within 48 hours, boxes of food, supplies and more than 10 large bags of clothes had been brought to the fire house.
"When we dropped the stuff off, we asked (the relief shelter) what they needed," Inge said. "They said they needed shelves to hold everything."
Three days after the storm, Inge and four other King William fire rescue members were building shelves at the shelter to hold supplies.
Volunteers from Family Life Baptist Church, on Route 360 in King William, also put their heads together to help those affected by the storm.
"We had a meeting of about 20 people at the church," said Whitney Lipscomb. "Some men took their chain saws and tractors over. A lot of us have been going out there to help."
King William resident Erik Wilson said he brought his tractor and chainsaw to help even though he didn't know any victims personally.
"I actually made friends with this guy — he kind of reminds me of a grandpa — and I've been helping him out," Wilson said. "It kind of tugs at your heart strings."
Wilson has helped people look for their belongings, covered damaged roofs and removed debris from the roads. He said helping victims is "just the right thing to do."
In West Point, C&C Auto Repair, on King William Avenue, offered free oil changes Feb. 29 to March 4 to folks who brought gift cards for tornado victims.
By March 2, the shop had already raised about $500.
"I kept hearing stories and reading things on the news, so I said let's just do something to help," said Chris Gallihugh, a tech-net service provider.
"If it costs us $500 in oil, then it'll be $500 in oil," Gallihugh said. "You have to do stuff to help the community, especially right now."
Both Keep Truckin' Road Service and Advance Auto Parts in West Point donated oil and gave shop discounts for the fundraiser.
Before the relief center ran out of room for supplies, third graders at Acquinton Elementary collected donated items.
School principal Shelley Nester said students want to collect donations. During class, students discussed their experiences and emotions about the tornado. The third-graders wanted to help the victims, which sparked teachers to encourage children to donate nonperishable food, blankets, plastic totes, animal food and clothing.
The donated supplies filled the back of a teacher's vehicle when they dropped off the items in Tappahannock.
"We teach more than just the (Standards of Learning) here," Nester said. "It's about teaching compassion for others."
Fearing can be reached by phone at 804-885-0042
Donate online at tappahannockrotary.org/tornado.
Want to donate?
The relief shelter is currently looking for gift cards to places hardware and grocery stores
Monetary donations can be made payable to: Essex County Department of Social Services, PO Box 1004 Tappahannock, VA 22560. Memo "Tornado Relief".