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Devastated Greenfield sees an influx of volunteers after a tornado

Volunteers swarm to Greenfield to help the rural Iowa town recover from a devastating EF4 tornado.

Volunteer Iowa is organizing cleanup efforts with AmeriCorps and is receiving support from several neighboring states.

“There are shingles, debris and fences. We have trees in ditches and they really just need help to get it all back,” said Jamie Lane, a volunteer coordinator with Volunteer Iowa. ‘The city itself needs help. We are trying to collect the rubble and move it to where the large equipment can go.’

The tornado ripped through Greenfield on Tuesday, May 21, destroying more than 150 homes. More than 300 volunteers flocked to the decimated city in the following days, Lane said. That number has slowly declined over the past week, although volunteers have remained steady at 35 to 40 per day, keeping the recovery on track.

“Believe it or not, we got two-thirds done,” Lane said. “We are starting to wrap things up, but we still have a long way to go.”

The Salvation Army served 750 meals to residents and volunteers on Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1, with plans to distribute another 250 on Sunday.

“It can range from 20 to 100 meals a day,” says Dan Hull of the Salvation Army. “I know there was a large number last weekend.”

More: Funeral services will begin soon for the victims of the Greenfield tornado

Volunteers continue to flock to the devastated city

Willing volunteers have come from as far west as Omaha, Nebraska, as well as from neighboring states like Wisconsin and Missouri.

Mike Turner, a Kansas City volunteer with multiple disaster relief organizations including ITDRC, Samaritan’s Purse and Team Rubicon, has been stationed in Greenfield since Tuesday, May 28.

“Even though I live three hours away, I work hand-in-hand with the people,” Turner said. “You really feel like you’re part of the community, and it’s always a great place to come back and see how the rebuilding process is going.”

Christina Bettini, who is helping coordinate volunteer efforts with Lane, said communities dealing with a similar tornado recovery have also done their part.

“We get a lot of people from Winterset or even Parkersburg, where other people have been affected by a tornado or disaster,” she said.

Winterset was hit by an EF4 tornado in March 2022, which traveled along Carver Road on the south side of town. Winterset is a half-hour drive from Greenfield.

More: The Greenfield tornado destroyed at least 153 homes in Iowa in about one minute

A lift from the hometown

Local volunteers also show up to support their community members.

“I was helping the neighbors at my family’s house. We were going through stuff and looking for items that we could salvage,” said Courtney Bax of Greenfield. “We were just sorting through clothes we found and stuff last night. Wherever they tell us to go, I’ve helped.”

More: Funeral services will begin soon for the victims of the Greenfield tornado

Bax was joined on Saturday by Aleca Viera from Fontanelle, who helped clear a farm full of rubble. Viera has lived in Adair County all her life and saw an opportunity to help neighbors.

“I grew up here, so I have connections to a lot of people who have lost their things and it just feels good to try to do something to help,” Viera said. “The feeling of seeing it on TV and being so far away was so helpless.”

Greenfield still needs additional volunteers to help with the recovery. The local volunteer shelter is located in the Cardinal IG Company parking lot and can be reached at 515-561-3744.

Organizations or individuals in need of volunteers are encouraged to contact Volunteer Iowa at 641-631-6555.

“This is going to be a long process,” Turner said. “But whatever little thing I can do to help, whether that’s delivering meals or taking debris to the curb for a homeowner, it’s better than nothing.”

More information about cleaning and volunteer opportunities in Greenfield can be found on the State of Iowa website.

Kyle Werner is a reporter for the Register. Reach him at [email protected].