Volunteers feed Kansas tornado victims

People in Linwood, Kansas continue to pick up the pieces from the destruction wrought by an EF-4 tornado earlier in the week.

The more than a mile-wide tornado Tuesday damaged 129 homes, completely destroying 44 and a manufactured home, according to figures released Saturday by the Leavenworth County Appraiser’s Office, Another 46 homes experienced significant damage.

An additional 159 “accessory structures,” a dairy and one industrial property also were destroyed among an estimated $26 million in damage.

The homes that were ripped apart have left many families wondering what is next for them.

But there’s often hope to be found in the midst of tragedy.

That hope in Linwood, which is among the hardest-hit communities, has come in the form of a steady stream of donations and volunteers.

People have come from all across the state to lend a hand, including Operation BBQ Relief, which arrived to make food for victims Friday night.

“It’s comfort food,” said John Orr with Operation BBQ Relief. “These people have gone through a situation that they don’t go through every day. The last thing many of these people think about is eating.”

Orr said they give more than just food.

“We provide hope, friendship and compassion,” he said. “That’s our motto.”

Along with the good, comes the bad. Police in town are dealing with looters.

“It’s pretty discouraging that people don’t have a big enough heart to leave people alone during these times of despair,” Fire Chief for Sherman Township Dan Tallman said.

That’s part of the reason volunteers are required to register at the Basehor-Linwood Middle School before going into the community to help.

“Basically, they are giving you a green rapid tag,” Tallman said. “And if you don’t have that, you are not getting in.”

Tallman also said that helps keep track of everyone who is volunteering and ensures every part of town receives help.

Orr said his mission is simple: “Just make them feel better. Let them know that there are people out there that care. We can’t go back and fix what happened. All we can do is help be part of the solution.”