For the NBC News morning segment “Lend a Hand,” TODAY show reporter Al Roker invited various businesses to collaboratively serve Beauregard volunteers and storm survivors at Providence Baptist Church.
His visit helped bring more national attention to the aftermath of the March 3 tornado in Lee County, when 23 people lost their lives and nearly 100 were injured.
Faith sustains them
“Your first reaction is just the devastation, and you almost don’t want to think about what was going on when this tornado hit,” Roker said. “And talking to everybody, it’s how their faith sustains them, and it kind of gives you inspiration in that I don’t know if I could be that faithful, and there’s an army of volunteers working out here tirelessly.
“It’s literally heartwarming.”
Before arriving to Beauregard, Roker sought the aid of Rodney Scott, a South Carolina and Birmingham barbecue restaurant owner, and CEO Sheldon Yellen of BELFOR, a company providing property restorations for natural disasters.
“‘Lend a Hand’ was originally a series based on charities that were hurting after 9/11 because so much money was going into 9/11 charities, and smaller charities were suffering,” Roker said. “We started trying to shine a light on those smaller charities, but as we’ve had more extreme-weather events, it’s now morphed into helping people with that.”
Rodney Scott’s BBQ
According to Roker, the Charleston-based, Rodney Scott’s BBQ owner did not hesitate to provide catering to Providence Baptist Church volunteers.
“When I heard about the tornadoes down here, it kind of touched me a little bit,” Scott said. “I felt like if I could do something, I would, and I got the opportunity to come help these folks out. It’s just a pleasure to lend a hand, and hopefully, bring a little bit of happiness and joy to such a tragic situation.”
At the Charleston Wine and Food Event, Roker extended an invitation for Scott to feed the volunteers, and the restaurant owner expressed a desire to share positive energy with Lee County residents affected by the storm.
“We say it every day in my restaurant: ‘Every day is a good day.’ And we feel like if we are here, there’s a chance for things to get brighter,” Scott said. “We just want to inspire and make people feel good. It’s about these folks here right now, and that’s all I can think about.”
Yellen has collaborated frequently with the TODAY show reporter in previous “Lend a Hand” segments, and the CEO’s passion to provide shelter remains as Yellen shared his concern for displaced residents.
“BELFOR is the largest property restoration company in the world,” Yellen said. “We operate and deal with our daily offices every day and natural disasters throughout the world,” Yellen said. “I received a call from Al Roker, and he said, ‘Hey, Sheldon. We are down here in Alabama, and I think we are going to need a little bit of your help. Can you make it?’ I immediately turned the plane around and headed for Alabama.”
Before attending the TODAY show segment, Yellen met two displaced families, and the business leader expressed grief for their extensive loss.
“In one second, everything they had is gone,” Yellen said. “The unfortunate loss of life took place down here as well, and I watch these people. I listened to them. They have a belief that tomorrow could be better, and they have a spirit within themselves to help boost others in need.
“They have selfless talk about what they hope to be able to do for others. I turned to Al and said, ‘Let’s get to work on something real quick.’”
Interested readers can glean more information on BELFOR's website at https://www.belfor.com/en/us.
Grow and rebuild
Each displaced family received a camper for temporary shelter as they work on rebuilding their homes, and Evony Wilson said she’s grateful for Roker and Yellen’s desire to satisfy the needs of her family.
“It’s overwhelming, but in a good way,” Wilson said. “Unlike the storm, this is a joyous moment. It’s a great moment. I’m thankful that we were blessed from this tragedy, and I know our community will be blessed as a whole.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to. As a whole, we’ll be able to grow from this and rebuild.”
Wilson urges the community to continually provide emotional and physical support for storm victims.
“It’s going to be a long road,” Wilson said. “I know, in time, we’ll heal, but we’ve lost so much. It’s going to take a community effort, and the community effort is already there.
“I’m thankful we’ve seen so much at this point from the community, and I can’t thank them enough. The community is wonderful.”
Impressed with response
Witnessing the active participation of the community, Roker said he was impressed by the response.
“I really admire the community helping the community, not waiting for more government organized stuff, and filling in those gaps,” Roker said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what your affiliation is or what your background is.
“It seems down here, people are just here to help, and that’s what makes America great.”