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September 1, 2012

Sunday events to honor tornado victims, volunteers

Six months have passed since an EF-4 tornado leveled parts of Southern Indiana

HENRYVILLE — Faith-based organizations in and around Clark County are taking time Sunday to recognize the six months of progress since the March 2 tornadoes that killed 13 people in Indiana and destroyed hundreds of homes.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Henryville is teaming up with volunteer-based organization March2Recovery to host a communitywide picnic from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday that will pay tribute to the volunteers who have sacrificed countless hours helping tornado survivors in the aftermath of the storm.

The Rev. Steven Schaftlein, of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, said the event is something organizers have been wanting do for several months.

“We just want to have something to show the appreciation for the volunteers,” Schaftlein said. “There have been so many.”

He said the tornadoes — the most destructive of which measured an EF-4 — the reconstruction process and community gatherings, such as the picnic, are events that show the unity of area residents.

“We are all in it together,” he said. “And, I think that is really important for people to understand.”

Schaftlein said he hopes volunteers will feel the gratitude of the survivors during Sunday’s picnic.

“If you feel appreciated, you are more likely to continue helping,” he said, adding that communities devastated during the tornado still have a big need of volunteer efforts.

“Most of the work has yet to be done,” he said.

Schaftlein said those who make up the March 2 tornadoes volunteer base include first-time volunteers and those have responded for years to the needs of those left in the wakes of local and national natural disasters. He said some people have an innate willingness to help others who have had their lives rattled by the forces of mother nature.

“It is something born inside of us, in our DNA, in our souls,” Schaftlein said. “We are one together. This shows our God given goodness.”

March2Recovery executive director Carolyn King said it makes sense that churches are taking time during their services and planning events to mark the six months since the tornadoes.

“Churches are seen as healing places in times of trouble,” she said. “Faith communities, I think, are appropriate places to turn at this time.”

While it is the survivors who need help and services following a natural disaster, King said the volunteers who have selflessly sacrificed are also deserving of recognition.

“We can all acknowledge the loss and pain of the survivors, but it takes a toll emotionally on the volunteers, too,” she said.

The community picnic is open to all community members and those touched by the March 2 tornadoes. The menu includes all the typical picnic fixings and fried chicken, pulled pork and ham. The event is scheduled to take place in the church’s parking lot.

In case of rain, tents will be set up and space will be opened in the church’s basement. A brief memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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Amy Harpenau is the new director of theater arts at New Albany High School. Harpenau is a 2007 graduate of Floyd Central High School, has appeared on stage at both high schools and worked in theaters since she graduated college.

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