After more than eight months since a devastating EF4 tornado swept through Rolling Fork, Mississippi, killing 15 people, destroying much of the city's homes and businesses, and displacing hundreds of its residents, hope is on the horizon.
Community leaders and charitable organizations have stepped up to work to rebuild the town together and get its residents back on track.
In April, "Good Morning America" launched the "Mississippi Strong" series to spotlight the city’s recovery and rebuilding efforts to get back on its feet. The journey has not been without its share of challenges, including unclear timelines and initial lack of local temporary housing.
Now, residents are banding together to overcome the significant challenges to rebuild their cherished community.
Dr. Miriam Hamilton, a therapist in Rolling Fork, will offer her services for free to patients who can no longer afford therapy. She also brings food and other resources to clients who are struggling. Hamilton has no office and lost her home, so she drives to meet her patients wherever they can meet her.
"There's nowhere like Rolling Fork," said Hamilton.
"It’s small-town America," said resident and pastor Britt Williamson. "It’s really a close-knit community."
Williamson took recovery efforts into his own hands, launching a nonprofit called Rolling Fork Rising, whose mission is to help formerly renting families return to Rolling Fork as homeowners, according to Williamson. In order to accomplish this lofty goal, Williamson said the organization is building 1,200-1,300 square-foot homes in Rolling Fork.
These new homes in the community would provide former renters with the opportunity to return to Rolling Fork and purchase new homes at a discounted price.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) said there were 756 people who needed sheltering. Now, MEMA reports there are still 36 individuals in non-congregate housing, a term used for housing like hotels or motels.
"Most of the population here was renters, " said Hamilton. "And a lot of the people that own the rental property, they can't rebuild the properties back."
Williamson hopes Rolling Fork Rising will continue the trend to put roofs over residents heads, this time in a more permanent manner.
"Rolling Fork was almost completely destroyed," said Williamson. "So, we're trying to bring hope and help these families rise up."
How to help: Learn more about Rolling Fork Rising here
One such family in need of help was that of Venisha Carter and her two children. Carter’s home was leveled on March 24.
Carter remembered the terrifying evening the EF4 tornado, with winds that reached 170 miles per hour, changed her life.
"I have to put on my cape and become supermom. And just act like I'm not scared," she said. "Even if something happened to me. I wanted them to survive."
Despite the nightmare, Carter expressed gratitude for the outcome.
"I'm grateful to be here because I literally could have lost my life. My kids could have lost their life."
The family's recovery included months in a hotel, and a temporary apartment, through FEMA.
When Carter heard about the opportunities provided by Williamson’s Rolling Fork Rising, she was intrigued.
"That's one of the things that’s on my list, being a homeowner -- and to hear it that it could be possible, It makes me feel really good," she said.
Carter said Rolling Fork Rising’s homebuilding mission has brought a feeling that has been crucial for her and her family in a time of upheaval: hope.
A prospect of hope helps her stay strong for the family she has worked to protect. Meanwhile, Carter has been studying to get a degree in applied psychology and hopes to work with kids.
"No matter what I go through, I still have to be strong for those two," she said.
"GMA" sponsor 84 Lumber announced on Wednesday a donation of $25,000 in supplies and $100,000 in funds to Rolling Fork Rising to help build more homes for families.
Carter and her kids were also surprised with the keys to their new home live on "GMA."
"I am so excited," Carter said from inside her new home, which is currently under construction. "It's going to be home again."
Read below for information and resources on how to help recovery efforts in Rolling Fork, Mississippi.
How to help
Rolling Fork Rising: Rolling Fork Rising is a nonprofit focused on allowing former renters to return to Rolling Fork with the opportunity to purchase new homes at a discounted price.