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Kenly churches remember tornado victims

Posted November 26, 2008

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— Every year, the night before Thanksgiving, churches in the Kenly area gather to hold what they call their community service. With what the community went through less than two weeks ago, this year's service will take on a much different tone.

Tornadoes hit early Nov. 15 and killed Marylin Gomez, 61, of Scott Road in Kenly, and Joshua Wiggins, 11, of London Church Road in Elm City.

Officials said the storm damaged or destroyed 59 homes and six businesses. Of those, 13 homes in Kenly were destroyed and another 43 damaged.

In spite of the losses, church members say there is still a lot for which Kenly and surrounding communities can be thankful.

“Material things can be replaced, very easily. They really can be replaced. Lives cannot. They were just meant to be saved,” said Debbie Hudson, Kenly Missionary Baptist Church.

Over 100 people attended Wednesday night's service. Many people donated food for area shelters.

“We have really become a community much greater and better than we were before,” said Rev. Harold Swinson, Kenly Free Will Baptist Church.

Earlier Wednesday, the church had a cookout and delivered meals to needy families. Some of those families included tornado survivors.

“They call it “Friendly Kenly” and you're seeing it happen. You’re seeing it take place. And I’m happy to be a part of it,” Swinson said.

“In a place like Kenly, you see all these people come together for a common cause and this is truly about neighbors helping neighbors,” Ernie Wilkinson said.

One of the volunteers was a tornado survivor himself.

“I just need to give back as much as people have helped me. I mean, I'm thankful for all the people who have helped me,” Hunter Stephenson said.

Donations for tornado-victim relief can be sent to:

American Red Cross
801 S. Third St.
Smithfield, N.C. 27577

Checks should include "Wilson-Johnston tornado" in the memo line to make sure the donation goes directly to the cause.

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