Garrett’s Blog: Adopt & Shelter a Family Project

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Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Recent tornadoes have caused widespread destruction across much of Arkansas and there are several ways you can help in the relief effort. 5NEWS has partnered with the Red Cross of Arkansas and will be taking donations to help in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

I wanted to propose a grassroots effort via social media for local churches to see if it would be possible to make a lasting long-term impact on those affected by the tornado. Many have expressed interest that their church might be interested in helping out.

Josh Rubin/CNN

Josh Rubin/CNN

The city of Vilonia, AR has been hit twice by strong tornadoes in as little as 3 years. After the physical healing and rebuilding phase is complete the psychological anxiety often lingers years into the future.

The average cost to install an underground FEMA approved shelter is between $3,000 & $4,000. Studies have shown that a properly installed safe room or underground shelter can be used in extreme tornadoes as a place of safety; however, the upfront cost of these shelters is high and many times unaffordable to many of us.

This grassroots effort will be aimed at churches or civic organizations to raise $3,500 within their congregations, youth group, civic club etc.

FEMA Photo

FEMA Photo

Here’s what I propose:

  • Raise $3,500
  • Email me the following information:
  1. 1) Organization Name:
  2. 2) Contact Person:
  3. 3) Contact phone number:


After the immediate search & recovery and damage assessment is over, the rebuilding phase will begin. I suspect it will take place sometime in the summer or early fall. I’ll put your information in a spreadsheet and contact each person individually around early July with updates.

I will contact the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management & Arkansas officials within the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get a list of tornado survivors who are rebuilding and are interested receiving the gift of a storm shelter from someone in our area.

After a list of interested families is provided, I’ll call the person listed as the contact and facilitate the building of the shelter. A good approach will be to take 3 bids and let the homeowner decide on which one to install.

If the homeowner is willing, a small group could probably attend on install day or thereafter to dedicate it to the family. You could do a number of things on dedication day: BBQ, plant a tree, give them a new washer/dryer, buy their kiddo a bike, or just simply write a letter. Your call.

Our area is strongest when neighbors help neighbors and our religious & civic organizations form the backbone of our community. There are many ways to help and this may or may not be right for your group. Talk it over & if you interested… raise the funds and shoot me an email at

Do not send any money to 5NEWS, keep it within your organization until the rebuilding phase is underway and then we can coordinate with reputable storm shelter installers and individual homeowners.

Together, we can give the gift of security and less anxiety for years to come & also show how much we love our neighbors whom we’ve never met. There are many noble ways to give. You can and should give to the Red Cross and other relief organizations but the local church can mobilize and make a huge difference on a personal level.

Please share and forward this to churches or civic organizations who you think might be interested in this effort.

– Garrett



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