EF-3 tornado debris turned into free firewood to warm families in Nash County

Tom George Image
Saturday, December 16, 2023
Group turning Rocky Mount tornado debris into firewood
It's the season of giving, and nearly 5 months after an EF-3 tornado tore through Nash County, one group is using the tragedy to pay it forward.

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's the season of giving, and nearly 5 months after an EF-3 tornado tore through Nash County on July 19, one group is using the tragedy to give back.

St. Stephen's Loving Daycare in Rocky Mount, just down the road from the Pfizer plant was devastated as the tornado narrowly missed them - miraculously, none of the more than 60 kids inside were hurt. The fence has since been repaired, and the company that installed it is also making sure the debris left behind is put to good use.

Shawn Holland with Seegars Fence Company was among the first on the scene to help owner Carolyn Slade clear out the debris. Once the work was complete, he had an idea.

"It was kind of crazy how the whole thing came about you know just a random idea that popped in my head from all the wood from the houses and devastation that happened in the community," Holland says.

He asked Slade if it was okay to keep the wood they cleared out. "It was an easy conversation and she was more than happy," he says.

That's where phase 2 came in - after using chainsaws to get the downed trees into manageable chunks, they're now turning it into firewood.

"We set up a log splitter and 15 to 20 people came and busted the wood all day," he says.

The bulk of the wood coming from the daycare tornado is enough to fill 4 truckloads for families in need, and today they made deliveries.

Jake Perry Richardson from Nashville is 91 years old and relies on wood to stay warm for the winter. It was hard to hide his smile when he saw the truck pulling up to his house with enough firewood to get him through the whole season.

"I sure appreciate that," he says.

A reminder this holiday that out of darkness comes light.

"Every bad thing, there's got to be something good that comes out of it, it's just perspective," Holland says.

And that it's better to give than receive.

"I think it's a blessing to help others," he says.

As for the daycare center, they still have some more repairs but they are back open again.

The owner said she'd forgotten about that extra wood for five months but is also happy it's the gift that keeps on giving.