Four months following the devastating and deadly tornado outbreak that leveled parts of Sharkey County in western Mississippi, non-profits and locally organized grassroots efforts alike have continued to support the hard-hit communities.
"Good Morning America" revisited the town of Rolling Fork, which was particularly battered by the storms, to show how members of the community have banded together, to celebrate local heroes and heroines helping despite their own difficulties, and to highlight how Americans across the country can pitch in, even from afar.
According to the American Red Cross, there are nearly 300 displaced residents still living in hotels in the surrounding area. Of top concern, is helping those displaced residents find a place to return to in Rolling Fork.
“In discussions with the state, we set an initial goal of having all residents set in transitionary or permanent housing six months from the disaster," a representative for the Red Cross told ABC News. "However, at that time, we will reevaluate and see how many folks remain in our care and if we need to continue those efforts."
Rolling Fork Mayor, Eldridge Walker, told ABC News the city is working alongside FEMA to locate land for temporary housing.
"This is an ongoing project. This is not a quick fix to what we're going through here in this community," Walker said. "I think we need to be a little more patient. And understand that a build-back for a community is going to take proper planning, strategic planning."
Signs of hope have emerged in the community with a new initiative called Build Back Better, which is a local nonprofit dedicated to helping former renters become homeowners.
"Without providing a way for renters to return to our city our population will decrease to the point that our local businesses, hospital, schools, etc. will be in peril," the nonprofit stated on its website. "The vision of Rolling Fork Build Back Better is to provide new homes (1200-1400 sq ft) for former renters to purchase at a discounted price. Our goal is to have their monthly mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance costs be approximately the same price as they were paying in rent prior to the tornado."
How to help:
The EF-4 tornado that swept across 59 miles of the state ripped through Rolling Fork on March 24 with bursting transformers and catastrophic winds up to 170 mph.
Mississippi reported 21 fatalities statewide, according to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), of which 13 were reported in Sharkey County where 255 homes were damaged as well as seven businesses.
To date, $5.2 million of assistance has been granted to eligible Mississippi tornado survivors from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Sharkey County.
"Recovery takes a long time -- but when we look at that, there’s been a lot of changes already," Darryl Dragoo, a Federal Coordinating Officer for FEMA told "GMA." "I'm seeing roofs going on, and people are rebuilding their homes. I'm watching temporary units being placed."
The FEMA disaster assistance, which is available to renters as well as homeowners, can include repairs and replacement of properties, help provide emergency protective measures or debris removal. It can also help with temporary housing if residents no longer have a safe or clean place to stay as a direct result of last month’s severe weather.
How to help tornado survivors
Check out the charitable organizations below that are accepting donations and helping in various ways to get Mississippi back to its mighty strength.
The Sharkey County Distribution Center, in the old gymnasium at South Delta High School, has become an emergency lifeline for supplies. Community members can get non-perishable food, baby products, hygiene items, clothes and more. The hub is fueled by donations. Learn more on how to donate here.
The Community Foundation of Washington County South Delta Disaster Recovery Fund directs resources to the long-term recovery needs of the residents in the communities hit the hardest by the recent tornado. From home repairs to complete rebuilds, this fund works with displaced victims to make sure they can return to a safe home. Click here to donate and learn more.
The volunteer-based organization that provides rescue and relief for those impacted by natural disasters.
"Our mission to protect and stabilize Rolling Fork was needed beginning the day after the tornado outbreak and continues to be needed to assist those in crisis," the organization wrote on its website. "Our 5 programs are designed to work in unison to bring swift intervention and into long term recovery."
Click here for more on the Cajun Navy and its donation resources.
The American Red Cross is still working with communities impacted by the devastating tornadoes that struck the South and Midwest in March. Nearly 900 trained disaster workers remain on the ground, providing shelter and offering recovery support including financial assistance. To date, in Mississippi more than 77,500 relief items -- including comfort kits and other supplies -- have been provided to people in need.
The Mississippi Food Network, a Feeding America partner food bank, has been on the ground before, during, and now after the Rolling Fork tornado to provide food, water, and other supplies to community members in need through local agencies Anguilla United Methodist Church and Cary Christian Center, who are both part of MS Food Network’s partner network distributing food to our community members.
An earlier version of this story was first published April 26, 2023.