Coulee region donations to help tornado victims in small Okla., communities

Published On: Jun 05 2013 05:58:22 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 06 2013 05:38:20 PM CDT
CARNEY, Okla., -

While most of the attention is on the powerful tornado that ripped through Moore Okla., a couple of weeks ago, smaller communities in the surrounding areas were also hit by tornadoes around the same time.

One member from the La Crosse community is working to make sure smaller communities devastated by tornadoes aren't forgotten.

Kerri Bandell may be a member of the La Crosse community, but as an Oklahoma native, she is all too familiar with the damage tornado season can leave behind in her home state. But it’s not just the debris filled streets in Moore she’s worried about. Smaller communities working to recover from tornadoes face unique challenges.

It's devastation that you probably won't see on the television unless you take a drive through some of Oklahoma's countryside.

“Shawnee and Moore are really the only two they showed on the news,” said a local resident. “Yeah that's all we saw,” said Bandell.

Located about an hour outside of Moore Okla., the small towns of Carney and Fallis are home to about 670 residents combined.

A tornado tore through both towns just a day before the powerful tornado hit Moore.

“Ripping the trees right out of the ground,” Bandell said as she drove by the destruction in Carney.

This is what has brought Bandell and her family from Onalaska back to her home state, and with them is a U-Haul full of donations she collected from the Coulee region to help these smaller communities that may have escaped the public eye.

“I grew up in a town about the size of this area, so I know how hard it is,” said Bandell. “These places sometimes get forgotten a little bit. They're just tiny little itty bitty towns, and that's who I wanted to make sure I helped.”

“We literally have to box up supplies, go to their homes and hand it to them or they just won't come take it or they won't come get it,” said Cheryl Raper, a local volunteer.

Raper is helping organize relief efforts here.

She said the small, but proud communities face unique challenges in the cleanup.

“There are houses that if you don't know how to get them, you don't know that they're there, and you don't know that they have been hit,” said Raper. “That's what we found out when we started looking for people is they're not coming forward, so you don't know that they have damage, so you don't know that they need help.”

While residents here have a long road ahead, it's compassionate hearts such as Bandell’s that will help them get back on their feet.

“You know, you grew up seeing these kinds of things, but this was just an extremely devastating one so it's very hard to see, but we're here,” said Bandell.

Bandell and her family not only dropped off donations, but they also stayed for a few days to help families clean up and recover from the tornadoes.

Oklahoma tornado victims didn't just receive food and clean up supplies from the La Crosse community.

Tune in Thursday night to see how the more than $32,000 raised in the Coulee region is helping the Red Cross help others in this time of need.