Help tells tornado victim she's in the right place
Connie McMahon, whose farmstead was hit by one of four Marion County tornadoes the night of April 29, now knows she lives where she was meant to be.
She was overwhelmed May 11 to see 11 cars, a trailer, a skid steer, and at least 15 men and children park in her driveway and along the road leading to her rural Tampa home to offer help.
Volunteers as young as 5 years old set to work clearing tornado debris and restoring her property.
“I wanted to sit down and cry,” McMahon said.
The volunteers were members of Morning Star Mennonite Church, which McMahon has visited only a few times when the congregation invited her to senior dinners.
They cleared fallen trees and branches, cut snapped branches, removed a fallen tree from an outbuilding roof, picked up debris, and did everything they could find to help restore her property.
Anthony Wiebe, who organized the effort, said the crew also cleared trees that had blown into a wheat field.
Morning Star, a branch of the Holdeman Mennonite church, has a local disaster relief effort with two committee members in each congregation organizing relief activities. For a larger relief effort, the committee members call upon other congregations to assist, Wiebe said.
Even the 5-year-old kept busy picking up sticks, McMahon said.
“There were chain saws going everywhere, and the skid steer,” McMahon said.
Her relief was palpable.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do, and then all these Mennonites showed up,” she said.
McMahon and her husband moved to rural Tampa after retirement, choosing the location online.
“When my husband was looking for a place on the Internet, I think God brought him here,” she said.
It was hard for her to keep her emotions in check as she watched the volunteers work.
“It was just so heartwarming,” she said. “I sat there and had to fight tears.”
The National Weather Service rated the tornado that struck McMahon’s property as an EF-1 tornado.
The weekend after the tornado struck, neighbors and others appeared at her property to get started on the cleanup, but last week was the largest organized effort.
Last modified May 18, 2022