WAXAHACHIE — In a few days, hundreds of Ellis County residents affected by the EF-3 tornado Mother Nature sent them less than 24 hours after Christmas Day 2015 will gather to remember the day that changed their lives as they knew it. Recognizing that the natural disaster left residents in a bind that still affects many of them today, the Ellis County Long Term Recovery Committee will host "One-year Later, A Holiday Celebration" event for those affected, providing a free meal, toys for children and pictures with Santa Claus.

As previously reported by the WDL, Gov. Greg Abbott declared six counties including Ellis as a disaster and “[...] has asked for individual and public assistance on a federal level for Ellis County, as well as numerous other county’s, following the Dec. 26 tornadoes that damaged dozens of homes across North Texas and killed 12. [...] An elementary school, local churches, and more than 170 homes were damaged or destroyed in northwestern Ellis County by an EF-3 tornado a month ago. Estimated damage costs totaled $20.4 million.”

Marla Bearden, a coordinator for Texas Baptist Men Long Term Disaster Recovery, shared that the Ellis County Recovery Committee was formed just after last year’s tornado.

“We have done case management with those who need the assistance or resources, and it helps residents find out where they can go for disaster relief. There was four cases where the people affected had little or no insurance, so the money collect by United Way helped to rebuild some of those homes,” Bearden said.

The committee made up of county employees, disaster recovery agencies such as Texas Baptist Men, United Way, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, United Methodist and several local churches, worked with a total of 189 cases since last year’s disaster.

“We have a very good, cooperative, working group. Stephanie Parker who is our emergency manager coordinator has been an excellent encourager of the group and did a good job of helping to keep us on track. We meet monthly, and we will continue to meet, and the long-term recovery will continue and be ready for the next disaster,” Bearden stated.

She shared that she has hopes that the event will not only benefit the families but introduce residents to others who were affected.

“It will be a couple of hours of coming together and let everyone discuss their recovery with one another. In the midst of a disaster, you get to know your neighbors a lot better. It will be a good time to see where everyone is at and their progress,” Bearden explained. “We thought it would be a good idea to host something along the lines of this event for the community. Ellis County didn’t receive much attention through the news media after the tornado like Rowlett did. We wanted to do something to help bring awareness to Ellis County residents who were affected.”

Children had a chance to select an age-appropriate gift from a donation collection from the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and other private donations. The event took place Tuesday, Dec. 13th, at the Salvation Army facility located at 620 Farley Street in Waxahachie from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

Families who have questions or concerns can call 817-995-4297 or email: ellisrelief@gmail.com.

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Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL

(469) 865-5488