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Arkansas group distributes over $400,000 in tornado relief funds

An uprooted tree damages a home and a car in a Little Rock neighborhood on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023, following a severe storm. The storm hit neighborhoods that a tornado tore through last spring, damaging some of the homes rebuilding from that tornado.
Andrew DeMillo
A group worked to distribute financial assistance to families harmed by a tornado this year.

A group in Arkansas has wrapped up its allocation of disaster relief funds to victims of the March tornado.

Heart of Arkansas United Way distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to 258 tornado victims. The City of Little Rock collected money through the United Cares fund and used the group to distribute it using a team of 70 volunteers.

Mollie Palmer from Heart of Arkansas United Way said many people were eager to help with the volunteer process.

“I was thrilled by the number of people who raised their hands and said they wanted to help,” she said. “And when we met our volunteers, we had a lot of people who said 'I was in the tornado in 1996,' or 'It was near my neighborhood,' or 'I wasn't able to go pick up a chainsaw, but I wanted to be able to help in some way.'”

Volunteers broke up into subcommittees to consider the hundreds of applications. Palmer said there were certain qualities they were looking for in applicants.

“We actually kind of looked at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs,” she said. “We saw a lot of applicants who were still experiencing food insecurity who still hadn't found a place to live.”

Each applicant received on average $1,600, with over $400,000 given out in total. About $30,000 was given out in Visa gift cards. All the money was paid out before Christmas.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.