“Members Help Arkansas Tornado Victims,” Ensign, July 1996, 75–76
Members rallied to help victims after tornadoes tore across the U.S. states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, leaving two member families homeless and affecting countless other families.
Members of the Fort Smith Arkansas Stake worked alongside the Red Cross helping victims of a tornado that hit Fort Smith, Arkansas, on Sunday, 21 April. Relief Society sisters from the Fort Smith Second Ward, a ward covering an area of town not affected by the tornadoes, prepared food and fed almost 1,000 people in three relief centers on Monday. Other members from the area and missionaries from the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission worked to salvage the belongings of those whose homes had been damaged in the storm.
Food from a nearby bishops’ storehouse was delivered to the Baptist Men’s Cooking Club, an organization that was preparing food for storm victims at a local school.
Approximately 2,500 homes were damaged in the storm, and 500 to 600 people were left homeless. Two Latter-day Saint families lost their homes completely, including the Gary Keeler family. Brother Keeler, a member of the Fort Smith First Ward, was home alone during the tornado and sought refuge in a closet. When he finally emerged from the closet, he found his home destroyed—the closet was one of the few parts of the house left standing. Both families were relocated soon after the storm.
“I’m just really impressed with the way the members have rallied,” said Robert W. Pommerville, president of the Fort Smith Arkansas Stake. “People learned what was important and what wasn’t—they began to realize there are a lot more important things in life than the little trinkets they collect.”