Update: The Volunteer Reception Center closed on Thursday after 400 volunteers registered in two days.
PENDLETON, Ind. – Officials in Madison County are now accepting volunteers to help with cleanup after tornadoes wreaked havoc in the area on Memorial Day.
Volunteers can meet at Pendleton Christian Church, which is located at 1170 So. Pendleton Ave.
Madison County EMA spokesman Todd Harmeson says the Volunteer Reception Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and will re-open on Thursday at 9 a.m.
Madison County EMA says volunteers must register before offering assistance and must be at least 18 years old or 16 if accompanied by an adult.
Anyone who wants to volunteer should bring proper footwear. Open-toe shoes are not allowed.
EMA officials announced Wednesday afternoon that power outages were down to roughly 700 in the Pendleton area. That number is down from about 4,000 immediately following the storm.
Chainsaws and utility trucks could be heard throughout the town Wednesday. Officials say hundreds of people had signed up to volunteer their efforts.
A group of Pendleton school children spent Wednesday helping to clear tree branches and debris from a large grassy area of Falls Park. Organizers said they wanted to return the park to the way it was before the storm.
“We want to do [it] for our town,” said Pendleton resident Melissa Day. “We don’t want to leave this for anybody else. We all want to be a part of it and get cleaned up for our kids, get it cleaned up for all our families.”
Pendleton Heights High School student Eli Arthur said he wanted younger children to be able to enjoy the park the way he did as a younger child.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” Arthur said. “I mean, I’ve played here forever, and I feel like just giving back.”
“The community’s been amazing, everyone’s wanting to help,” said Joey Patton, the president of the “Friends of Falls Park” group. “People from out of town even are driving in to help. People from out of state are sending money, donations, anything they can do. And it’s really just awesome.”
Several residential streets remained blocked by fallen trees from Monday night’s storm. Utility and tree-removal crews continued the work of restoring power and cleaning roadways. Families spent Wednesday working to remove heavy trees from their homes.
“A tree on the top of my garage,” said Sharon Barnes. “It will be a total loss, I’m sure. Hole in my roof up here, and all of my trees.”
“I’m safe, I guess we can replace all this,” Barnes said.
Tonya Kemerly had power restored to her home on Hallowell Drive Wednesday morning, but not before she took steps to save some of the food in her freezer.
“Well, I took all the meat out of the freezer,” Kemerly said. “I just bought a quarter of a beef, so I took it out to my aunt’s house. She had an extra freezer.”
Across the street, Betty Hopkins remained without power Wednesday afternoon. She was removing food from her refrigerator and freezer and sending it home with others who had regained electricity at their homes.
“My family and friends, they’re always here if we need them,” Hopkins said. “So I know that they’re going to be here.”
James Lewis on John Street said he will be without power until Saturday. He will not have contractors out to help with the damage until Thursday. The mess is overwhelming but he said it helps to have supportive neighbors.
"When it happened, everyone went outside when it was over to check on everybody," he said.
Lifeguards and employees at Brown Pool spent Wednesday swimming along the bottom of the pool to remove tree limbs and leaves. The pool manager hoped to reopen the pool within the next day or two.
Across town, residents hoped to have Falls Park ready for the annual June Jamboree, which is scheduled for June 4-8.
County officials are asking for monetary donations at this time. If you would like to help with the tornado relief effort in Pendleton, click here. United Way is managing donations for relief efforts at the request of Madison County EMA.
Officials also want to remind homeowners that there will be numerous home repair and tree service contractors in the area in the coming days. If the contractor is unknown to you, make sure to check references and never prepay for work before work is completed.
Please report any suspicious activity by calling 9-1-1 or the Indiana State Police Post at 765-778-2121.