I recently organized a Cape Ann Chapter of Shoeboxes For Kids. I accepted donations of shoeboxes, filled with childrens items such as crayons, coloring books, jump ropes, playing cards, etc. The donations were to help the victims of the recent tornadoes in central Massachusetts. The children in situations such as this are often left extremely confused, not truly understanding what has happened. They know only that nothing is the same, nothing is normal, they can't go back home and they no longer have anything that was familiar. The shoebox items provide a little sense of normalcy in the midst of turmoil, a smile in the face of their tears, some hope in the face of despair. It was my honor to be able to organize this charity and personally bring the donations out to the tornado-ravaged areas. It warmed my heart to see the outpouring of support from the community here. So many donated to the cause. It was truly amazing. On Monday I traveled to Monson, MA, a small town not far from Sturbridge. The tornado tracked right through the middle of their town, leaving massive devastation in its wake.
This was a truly unforgettable experience for me, and bittersweet. I have a close fondness for the town of Monson, a place I fell in love with many years ago. To see it in the face of such devastation was heartbreaking. To see the way the people in the community have helped each other was beautiful. To see how grateful they were was incredible. To spend the day around such amazing people was a gift. To have been able to help in however small a way was an honor.
Let me take you on my journey...
As we headed in to the center of Monson, we could see clearly the exact path of the tornado by looking at the trees.
This church downtown had extensive damage
The remains of someone's home, like so many others there. It was so sad to see.
Once a home now reduced to rubble.
The blue skies were a stark contrast to the destruction
A reminder of the beautiful countryside this was only weeks ago.
The damage stretched far and wide
People were hard at work throughout the area throwing away what was destroyed and trying to salvage what little could be saved
It was a cruel joke... the tornado taking away the home and leaving most of the swimming pool
Camelot is said to be a utopia, sort of ironic in the face of the devastation
Forestry people were hard at work
Huge trees were snapped in half by the force of the tornado, yet the ones right next door were spared
Even weeks after the tornado hit, there is much work still to be done. The damage was so extensive. These were volunteers. Many of those helping out, who have helped tarp people's rooftops, board up doors, windows etc, take down the remnants of trees, clean up debris that was once homes are there out of the goodness of their hearts.
The tornado traveled right over the top of this hill, leaving this mess in its wake.
Rubble litters the sides of the streets
Their homes were reduced to rubble, their possessions piled up outside, yet the humble gracious people of Monson said thank you over and over again to those that have helped them in this time of need.
Home after home in the distance either left as a shell or covered with tarps and boarded up... home after home ... so devastating
The lawn decorations are a bit of normalcy in the face of disaster. Notice the giraffe head sticking out of the plywood. The people of Monson are taking this with some levity.
Truly amazing in the face of this destruction.
Brings tears to my eyes. The people of Monson are truly amazing.
So many buildings destroyed.
Merely a shell of this downtown building remains.
The people of Monson showed over and over again solidarity in the face of despair. They embodied what this country was founded on.
Lots of equipment is hard at work in the cleanup effort
Their house a total loss but they are thankful for the kind souls who helped.
It continued to amaze me how thankful everyone there was. These are truly amazing people and I feel privileged to have met some of them.
The woman who lived here had seven cats that were lost in the tornado. With the help of friends and neighbors, who put their lives at risk climbing beneath the rubble here that was her home they managed to recover ALL of the cats, and all survived.
These are pictures of the cats. She is grateful for the assistance of the good-hearted souls that helped to rescue them.
I spoke with a friend of the home's owner, who was helping to sift through the rubble for her to salvage what little she could. So many people are helping others. This woman I spoke to feels she was spared because she only has to replace a roof and get about 30K of tree work done on her property so she has spent her time assisting all her neighbors as much as she can.
Temporary housing is just starting to be trucked into town. People have been fortunate enough to find friends or family to stay with while they wait for FEMA housing that is placed next to what is left of their homes.
Many do not have much left
The tornado literally went around this house and left the house standing and destruction all around it.
Most were not so lucky
Great people here are helping the community... most are just now coming to terms with the loss. Many were too proud to take the help. But now reality is setting in, the trailers are starting to arrive and they are realizing it is time to start rebuilding their lives.
It will take some time to rebuild the town of Monson. There will be a lot in need along the way. I plan on continuing to help in any way that I can. Since they will now be starting to get their trailers, there will be a need for the staples necessary to re-start a household. So I have begun a drive to provide some assistance in the form of grocery store gift cards as well as household staples such as laundry detergent, laundry soap, toiletries etc. I will be taking another trip out to personally deliver the donations I receive. If you would like to help, the drop off center for donations is at Oasis Rockport, 65 Bearskin Neck, Rockport MA 01966. I will accept walk in donations, shipments and deliveries and will provide local pickup if needed. All the help is greatly appreciated. The Shoeboxes For Kids drive was very successful. I hope that we can continue to provide some assistance.