This Henryville school was heavily damaged by the March 2 tornado.
This Henryville school was heavily damaged by the March 2 tornado. (Photo by Keith Robinson)

Extension offers relief, hope to

tornado-ravaged communities

When Steve Cain heard the news about tornadoes hitting Henryville and other communities in southern Indiana on March 2, the Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network homeland security project director immediately knew the situation was very bad.

But he wouldn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the widespread destruction until he got there. It was overwhelming. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a catastrophic tornado in Indiana like this,” he says.

Cain took a lead role in helping to manage the sudden and rapid influx of volunteers and donations that poured into the area for weeks. EDEN communications specialist Abby Hostetler also was dispatched to help coordinate volunteer efforts.    

The Rev. Rich Cheek, former chairman of the long-term recovery committee, said the Purdue people recognized special needs, such as farmers who needed feed for cattle or quick help in erecting new fencing.

“Most folks who came in were not rural and didn’t understand the role agriculture plays in the community,” Cheek says. Cain and Hostetler knew how to help. “Where there were gaps in the coordinated effort, Purdue Agriculture came through. They came in and made a tremendous impact.”

That impact has included county Extension educators serving as a resource for people needing information and assistance along the road to full recovery. Even 4-H members pitched in to organize a clothing donation and pickup during the early recovery period.

he empty school bus was hurled into a restaurant.
The empty school bus was hurled into a restaurant. (Photo by Keith Robinson)

For Cain, Purdue Extension’s commitment to the communities that needed help to rebuild and repair lives is clear: “Purdue is totally involved in this disaster recovery and will continue to be for a long time.”