By JB Clark
TUPELO – More than 3,000 volunteers are on their way to Tupelo from all four corners of the country to help clean up and repair homes following the April 28 tornado.
Volunteers with Eight Days of Hope will help 165 uninsured and underinsured homeowners get their houses back in shape while undertaking community service projects like debris removal and park renovations.
Steve Tybor, founder of the organization, has spent the past few weeks with some leadership members of the group setting up Buildings IV and V at the Tupelo Furniture Market to help house the volunteers and give them a space to share meals and morning devotions.
After each work day, volunteers will invite homeowners they are helping back to the furniture market for dinner.
“We’ll interview them so the volunteers will hear some interesting stories about the tornado and their struggles with repair,” Tybor said.
The week-long repair and recovery project will begin at 6:30 Saturday morning as the 3,023 volunteers from 37 states gather and begin to organize their plan of attack.
Duane Blum, of Mason City, Iowa, arrived Wednesday afternoon with wife Chris and their 18-year-old daughter Amanda.
“It’s like ‘Extreme Makeover Home Edition’ meets church camp meets a family reunion,” he said. The Blum family has participated in numerous Eight Days of Hope projects before this week.
Blum, who does disaster cleanup at home, said it is fun to contrast his cleanup work by coming back around and doing reconstruction.
“We have volunteers from California, Oregon and New Hampshire, so you know they’re coming from everywhere,” Tybor said.
It is too late for additional volunteers to sign up to be a part of the week-long recovery project, but Tybor said there are still ways to help.
“We’re asking people to pray,” he said. “If you’ve ever worked on one house – coordinating things and suppliers – it gets interesting. We’re working on 165 homes. You can still donate online at EightDaysOfHope.com and if you see someone with an Eight Days of Hope T-shirt on, give them a hug and thank them for coming to Tupelo.”
The week-long undertaking has a budget of $500,000 and will include working on improvements at city parks and doing timber removal from behind the tornado-damaged American Legion post.