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Kiowa County Signal - Kiowa County, KS
  • Neighbors help clean up at Banta farm

  • Volunteers from all over the state spent last weekend helping to clean up the Banta farmhouse, which absorbed a direct hit from the EF3 tornado that tore through northern Kiowa County on April 14.


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  • Volunteers from all over the state spent last weekend helping to clean up the Banta farmhouse, which absorbed a direct hit from the EF3 tornado that tore through northern Kiowa County on April 14.
    AmeriCorps workmen sawed through fallen trees, loaded truck beds and formed piles of steel car parts and long strips of aluminum siding shredded by last week’s tornado that damaged more than 30 miles of farmland in Kiowa and Stafford counties.
    Multiple chainsaw crews buzzed through the leafless oak, cottonwood and pine trees that were strewn across the property surrounding the longtime family homestead.
    “We’re turning big trees into little trees and hauling them away,” said Larry Lemaster an AmeriCorps volunteer from Meade.
    A group of neighbors rested in the midday heat, breaking from a morning of hard labor, barely denting the expanse of damage that could take weeks to finish. 
    “I heard through the school that they needed some help, and I thought ‘I can do that’,” said Kiowa County Schools Art Teacher Cheryl Richard. “I’ve known Claire and Wilda for years, ever since I’ve lived here.”
    Mayor Robert Dixson hauled severed branches and drove truckloads of wood and brush to a nearby fire pit. Greensburg resident Matt Deighton supervised the group of AmeriCorps volunteers. Family members, some from in-town and some from the other side of the state, spent all day lifting wood and rubble.
    There were also a number of Pratt residents who had come to help their neighbors to the west.
    “Today we’re chopping up the trees and taking them down,” said Keira Riney, a wildlife biology major at Pratt Community College (PCC). “We’ll come back tomorrow to work on cleaning up the house.”
    Pratt High School Senior Erica Granada, one of two Pratt High School students currently working with AmeriCorps, also came to help.
    “It is so important that I get out and help my community,” said Granada. “Especially with disasters like this.”
    “I heard about the tornado on the night that it happened, so I was expecting the phone call” said Paul Cline, a PCC student and AmeriCorps volunteer. “When I went home on Saturday night my grandma said ‘Greensburg got hit.’ I was [dispatched to] Harveyville after they got hit and so I knew I was going to come over here.”
    Following an all night out-of-town tournament, PCC Volleyball Coach Brian Dickens brought three of his players to the farm to help.
    “I haven’t slept since 5 a.m. yesterday but I brought some of my girls out to help and we were here this morning doing what we could,” said Dickens. “You’d hope that if it ever happened to you, someone would come and help.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Some of the volunteers, having survived the May 4, 2007, expressed feeling a sort of catharsis from the day’s work, which was, though on a much smaller scale, a reminder of the devastation following the 2007 tornado, now five years past.
    Many of the out-of-town workers talked about a “pay-it-in-advance” feeling that one day it may be their home that needs cleaning up.
    “I’d hope that if this had hit my home, my neighbors would do the same thing,” said Cline. “I’d do the same thing for them.”