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TX town begins recovery

Residents in this tiny town are still cleaning up following an April 6 tornado.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | TATUM, TX | April 16, 2003

Residents in the tiny town of Tatum are still cleaning up following an April 6 tornado which damaged more than 100 homes and injured seven people in Rusk County.

More than 30 homes in the county will have to be demolished, and about the same number need major repairs, said the Rev. David Banks, pastor of the Tatum United Methodist Church.

Banks is one of several community leaders trying to help residents affected by the storm. As director of the ecumenical Tatum Interchurch Ministries, his goal is to help coordinate the work of the various relief groups in the East Texas area.

Help and assistance have come from numerous sources, Banks said. The United Methodist Committee on Relief sent a $10,000 grant to assist with cleanup. Collections have been taken up at local race tracks. The Tatum Lion's Club is providing financial assistance for uninsured families who lost their homes. The local fire department is collecting canned food and clothing and Tatum High School is accepting donated furniture. The Home Depot in Longview, about 20 miles away, has donated construction supplies.

"Our primary goal is to address the needs of those without insurance," Banks said. "Hopefully it will help make a difference. We're talking about people who have lost everything they have."

Residents affected by the F2 twister, which packed winds between 113 to 157 mph, are also obtaining clothing and supplies from a thrift store and food bank run by Tatum Interchurch Ministries.

The American Red Cross was running a service center at the First Baptist Church in Tatum, but it closed last weekend.

Displaced families have either moved in temporarily with family or friends or are staying in local motels, eliminating the need for emergency shelters.

"The churches in Tatum offered, but everyone was pretty much taken care of," Banks said.

Tatum, with a population of about 1,300 people, is located about 135 miles from Dallas and 60 miles from Shreveport, La.

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