They were so affected by the terrible events in their own backyards that they immediately stepped up to lend a helping hand to other disaster victims—one stranger at a time. Kathryn, her three other children and her husband survived.
When a tornado ripped through the small town of Otwell, Indiana, in May 2006, Kathryn Martin, 32, who lived 60 miles away in Evansville, couldn't get the news of it out of her mind. "It was the most terrible experience of my life," she says.
(Luckily, the fire didn't spread.) All told, she served 1,100 meals—at no charge.
Exhausting as it is running the bus in addition to working full-time as a township trustee, it's what Kathryn feels she was meant to do."On our third day in Earle, Arkansas, after a tornado there, a little boy asked where I live," she says.On the drive back to Evansville, Kathryn came up with an idea to help more kids.She corraled family, friends and neighbors and spent the next few months organizing homegrown fundraisers: carnivals, car washes, walk/runs. J.'s Bus, a 35-foot schoolbus-turned-mobile-playroom. Stocked with bins of video games and DVD s, toys, crafts, books and much more, the bus travels to disaster-torn towns, giving the children there a safe place to play while their parents clean up, tend to paperwork or simply take a break."It's great to be able to give people some of their history back," says Rebecca.
"One person told me that thanks to us, her grandmother got to see her photos again before she passed away.
"The joy of just feeding them was enough for me."For four days, Christy spent nearly 20 hours a day cooking burritos, chicken, steak sandwiches and other food from her restaurant, and serving slices of the cafe's signature apple pie.
Every few hours one of the other locals who'd stayed in town took over grill duty, giving Christy a chance to go home and get a little sleep.
"And feeding people is what I do best."The power was out in town, so she and a few other residents who hadn't evacuated hauled over an industrialsize propane grill from the firehouse a few blocks away.
She set it up on the street in front of her restaurant and started pots of beef and beans cooking.
I'm so happy to have these two."In the five years since Katrina, Operation Photo Rescue—now headquartered in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with more than 2,000 volunteers—has collected thousands of pictures ruined by floods, hurricanes and tornadoes in such states as Iowa, Georgia, Kansas, Texas and Louisiana.