Last Thursday, the New York Says Thank You Foundation arrived in Mena to help rebuild after last year’s devastating tornado.
Each year on the 9/11 Anniversary, The New York Says Thank You Foundation sends hundreds of volunteers from New York along with disaster survivors from around the country to help rebuild communities around the United States recovering from disaster. It’s their way of saying “Thank You” for all the love and support Americans from across the country extended to New Yorkers in the days, weeks, and months following September 11.
At the core of the volunteer rebuilding effort were 25 New York City firefighters, many of whom survived the World Trade Center attacks. Also helping were disaster survivor volunteers from all the communities around the U.S. that the Foundation has assisted on previous anniversaries of 9/11 and who continually volunteer each year as their way to “Pay It Forward.” This group includes San Diego wildfire survivors, Hurricane Katrina survivors from Slidell, Louisiana, and tornado survivors from Utica, Illinois, DeGonia Springs, Indiana, Groesbeck, Texas, Greensburg, Kansas, and most recently Little Sioux, Iowa where New York Says Thank You brought out over 1,200 volunteers on the 9/11 Anniversary 2009 to rebuild a Boy Scout camp devastated by a deadly tornado that took the lives of four young Scouts.
The volunteers helped rebuild the homes of three families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged in the tornado and rendered unlivable. These include a young family with two children whose parents both work at the local WalMart; a single mother who is 100% disabled and caring for an 18-year-old autistic son; and a young family with six children ages 8 years to 1 month who are now living in a mobile home with very little living space. The volunteers also helped rebuild Mena’s 4-H County Extension Community Center. The Community Center will serve as an educational meeting space for 4-H youth, farmers, community leaders, business owners, and families.
In addition to the volunteer rebuilding weekend, history was made on Saturday September 4 at Mena’s National Guard Armory when local service heroes from the community and surrounding towns placed ceremonial stitches in The National 9/11 Flag, a 30-foot American flag destroyed in the collapse of The World Trade Center on September 11.
Local first responders who helped in the rescue and recovery efforts following the Mena tornado and recent flooding at the Albert Pike campground were given the historic honor of helping to repair this national treasure which will become part of the permanent collection of The National September 11 Memorial Museum being built at Ground Zero.
At the community memorial ceremony held Sunday morning at Janssen Park, Jeff Parness, founder of New York Says Thank You stated, “New Yorkers will never forget what people from Arkansas and small towns all across the United States did for us in the days, weeks, and months following 9/11. Helping to rebuild Mena on the 9/11 Anniversary 2010 is our way of honoring that incredible spirit of kindness and volunteerism that united our Nation on 9/12.”
The service was very moving, with all of the NY Firemen along with volunteers from so many other communities that had been devastated by natural disasters. The true spirit of America was shown in my community this weekend.
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I was born in 1956 in Madison, Tennessee, while my parents were attending Madison College. I grew up along the Front Range in Colorado, attending schools in Longmont, Brighton, Boulder and Loveland, Colorado. Two years after graduating from Campion Academy, I married my sweetheart, Regina. We lived in Loveland, Colorado for six years before moving to Mena in western Arkansas.
I love the people of Mena and the friendly easy going way of life here. I have owned and operated my own business since moving to Mena. I enjoy the natural beauty of western Arkansas and being out of doors.
My newspaper column in The Mena Star, An Arkie’s Faith, premiered on January 7, 2016. In March 2017, I published my first book, titled An Arkie's Faith, using articles from the column.