East Texas Builders Association Donates $4,500 to Help Marion County Tornado Victims | New

The East Texas Builders Association this week presented Marion County with a $4,500 donation to help residents who were impacted by the EF-2 tornado in March.

“The money was donated in the name of the East Texas Builders Association to directly assist victims of the tornado,” County Judge Leward LaFleur said, sharing the county’s appreciation for the donation, which will benefit the relief fund. .

“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said.

The East Texas Builders Association, based in Longview, is a nonprofit trade association with 390 members and jurisdiction over nine contiguous counties, including Gregg, Harrison, Marion and Panola. Members are made up of industry professionals who come together to build quality homes and improve the homeownership experience.

The organization was so disrupted by the devastation of the March 21 EF tornado that members rallied to see what they could do to help.

“Immediately following the storms in Marion County last March, several ETBA representatives assessed the area to determine how we could be of the greatest assistance to those affected,” explained Angela Daughtry, Executive Director. “We have witnessed a huge loss of homes and devastation.

“Thanks to the generous support of our members, ETBA was able to provide and distribute food and supplies for the week following the disaster,” she said. “Additional monetary donations allowed us to donate $4,500 towards the cleanup and rebuilding process.”

Justice LaFleur said that to ensure the funds are not tied to government funding, a separate fund, overseen by a group of local pastors, will be created to specifically help victims.

“Obviously the county government cannot accept private donations for causes other than the county government, and it’s not government funding,” LaFleur said.

“Since the tornado happened, we have teamed up with the American Red Cross. A few local pastors, the Emergency Management Coordinator, Sheriff (David) Capps, myself and County Commissioner JR Ashley, whose precinct occurred, we meet every three weeks to discuss issues ongoing, what people need, if there are needs and how we can help,” the county judge said. “We are opening a bank account locally where a few of the pastors we have in our group will oversee how these funds are used and where they go.

“We wanted to completely disconnect the county government from this,” he said. “We didn’t want it (to get mixed up) in government bureaucracy. We wanted to make sure that money got to where it needed to be, which was to those affected by the storms.

According to the National Weather Service, Marion County was one of six tornadoes to hit the East Texas region in March. Another was reported at Elysian Fields.

For the tornado that hit Marion County, the NWS reported that an EF-2 with estimated peak winds of 135 mph and a maximum width of 700 yards traveled 40 miles from about five miles northwest of Union Grove about four miles west of Linden.

NWS has documented winds of 135 mph as the strongest wind speed of an EF-2 tornado rating. Seven injuries were reported with this tornado, which began around 10:30 p.m. and ended around 10:47 p.m. that night.

“It hit near the corner of Dawson, our northernmost and westernmost part of the county,” LaFleur said. “So he went through Upshur County, jumped Pine Lake at Bridge 155, then entered Marion County.”

Judge LaFleur suspects the recovery period to be an ongoing effort.

“With something like this, it’s a long-term thing,” the county judge said. “It’s not something that happens overnight or can be fixed. Here we are in June and it happened in March and we are still feeling the effects.

“A lot of these people didn’t have insurance; many of them lost everything they owned,” he said.

LaFleur said he was grateful to organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Red Cross and the East Texas Builders Association who offered a helping hand.

“Many organizations in East Texas have stepped up; and it makes me proud to say I’m from East Texas,” the county judge said.

“I will always be proud to say that I am a son of Gregg County; I grew up there, I grew up there, there are great people there, but it’s not just Gregg County; it’s all of east Texas,” LaFleur said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in the most remote part of Marion County, if it’s in the middle of Longview, if it’s in Upshur County, Harrison County, it could be in Waskom – everything the world will help this community.

“East Texas is a very special place,” he said, reiterating how grateful he is for the builders association’s benevolence. “Where else can a county judge come to work on Monday morning and they say we want to give the victims there $4,500.”

Justice LaFleur encourages continued prayers and support for those affected by the tornado.

“It’s a permanent disaster,” he said. “Just because the clouds have gone and the rain has stopped, there are still people who are suffering and we are trying to help them as best we can and that will help a lot with that.”

Daughtry of the East Texas Builders Association echoed his sentiments.

“Unfortunately, many of those affected had no insurance and are still in dire need of help. With construction labor shortages and rising material prices, this will be a long and ongoing effort,” Daughtry said. “We urge our community to reach out to the Marion County Disaster Relief Committee and support their upcoming fundraisers.”

Andrew B. Reiter