KOKOMO, Ind.– You don’t have to look very far to see damage from the Kokomo tornadoes. There are still homes covered in tarps and a feeling of emptiness when you pull into the neighborhoods that were hit.
Even months after the storms ripped through the town, people still remember the moment when they lost everything.
“He said there is a storm and it is coming right over us and the only thing that I could do was stand in the hallway and say please lord, not my house…please,” said Kokomo resident Paula Smith.
Minutes later, the roof was blown off of 66-year-old Paula Smith’s home. Today she is still working to piece her life back together and says the holidays will be tough, now unable to be in her own kitchen with her family.
“I moved from my childhood home to that home, it is the only home I have ever known,” said Smith.
With houses still torn apart around the area, the Kokomo Rescue Mission knows those people cannot go home for the holidays, so they are opening their doors.
“I think that Thanksgiving dinner is going to be a great celebration here, because we have so much to be thankful for. When we look at the tornado and look at the homes that were destroyed and no one was killed or seriously uninjured it really is a day of Thanksgiving,” said Van Taylor Executive Director of the Kokomo Rescue Mission.
The rescue mission has already helped more than 1,000 people affected by the tornado and this Thanksgiving they are expecting a huge turnout, looking to reach many more like Paula who need a helping hand.
“We are basing it on 800 people for Thanksgiving but more could be coming with the tornado. I think that it is important for these people to know what we still care,” said Chief Administrator of the Kokomo Rescue Pam Givens.
With every plate, the mission’s goal is not just to fill stomachs but also hand out hope and compassion to people like Paula who are still trying to figure out what to do next.
“I know that it is just temporary. It is okay, okay,” said Smith.