Nearly $200,000 donated for tornado relief

Published: July 7, 2023

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Click on the button above to make an online donation through Catholic Charities of Arkansas. Under "I would like my donation to benefit the following program/ministry" select "Tornado Relief and Recovery" in the drop-down menu for your donation. If you prefer to mail a donation, personal checks are welcome. Please mail your donation to: Disaster Relief Fund, Diocese of Little Rock, 2500 N. Tyler St., Little Rock, AR 72207. For more information, contact Megan Moore, at Catholic Charities of Arkansas, at (501) 664-0340, ext. 379.

The following article was originally published Arkansas Catholic, on June 22, 2023.

Catholic Charities of Arkansas (CCA) has been providing relief and long-term recovery casework services since the March 31 tornado swept across Arkansas, inflicting large-scale damage where it touched down. Its focus is on Pulaski and Lonoke counties in central Arkansas and Cross County in eastern Arkansas, which were declared disaster areas.

Sarah Alvarez, tornado recovery caseworker (right), meets, June 19, with tornado victim Bertha Estrada, a member of St. Anne Church in North Little Rock and owner of a Cabot-based food truck.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville, Cabot, Wynne and surrounding areas had more than 3,500 households with tornado-related losses based on FEMA-approved applications.

Sarah Alvarez, tornado recovery caseworker for Catholic Charities, began contacting Catholic parishes in communities with tornado damage to identify and contact households impacted. This is an ongoing process, and CCA staff want to hear from any Catholic parishioners who have not been contacted. Alvarez can be reached at or (501) 664-0340.

During weekend Masses April 15-16, a special collection was taken up in all the parishes. Dennis Lee, chancellor for administrative affairs, said that combined with individual donations, more than $190,000 has been received for Catholic Charities to provide tornado relief and recovery casework services.

Lee said it is anticipated that Little Rock, North Little Rock and Wynne will each have a long-term recovery group made up of representatives from helping organizations like CCA, city employees and other faith-based groups. Resources will be pooled, and through sharing information about tornado-impacted households, including assistance provided by FEMA and insurance settlements, unmet needs will be identified and addressed to the extent they can be by the long-term recovery groups.

Alvarez said she “was shocked by the fallen trees everywhere, all the homes that were destroyed and without roofs and the debris on the road," referring to the amount of damage that her neighborhood suffered March 31. She said her family was “blessed” to be safe and escape any damage to their home. When she was offered her job with Catholic Charities, she saw it “as an opportunity to help and make a difference.”

Reflecting on her work so far, Alvarez said that in her time at Catholic Charities, she has learned that “true happiness lies in helping others, whether it is through prayers, donations or even just listening to people and their stories.” While making calls to impacted households, Alvarez learned about Bertha Estrada, a member of St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, who is grateful for the long-term recovery casework services she is receiving through CCA.

Estrada, a mother and widow, has a food truck, Tacos Del Norte, parked in Cabot. Her home in a neighborhood near St. Anne Church was severely damaged, and her family of seven has had to split up to live with family and friends.

“Coming home from work and not having my family there … I need and miss my family," Estrada said. She needs a new roof and a central heat and air system before she can move back into her home, and she is waiting for a check from her insurance company that will only cover part of these expenses. In the meantime, she said she is struggling to make her mortgage payments and come up with rent money for an apartment while she waits for her house to be repaired and continues to operate her food truck.

CCA  is still accepting donations for “Tornado Relief and Recovery.” All are welcome to donate online or mail a check to: Disaster Relief Fund, Diocese of Little Rock, 2500 North Tyler St., Little Rock, AR 72207.