After Arkansas Tornado, REALTORS® Become a Lifeline

May 6, 2014

Victims of the devastating April 27 tornado that destroyed parts of central Arkansas and killed 16 people are still reeling from the tragedy. But they're finding friends in the real estate community to help them through this difficult time, as REALTORS® mobilize and send in their troops — armed with emergency aid and compassion — to hard-hit areas.

Members of the Arkansas REALTORS® Association have stepped up their efforts to bring relief to communities reduced to rubble in the powerful storm. Last week, they were out on the streets passing out $50 Walmart gift cards to those who need to buy emergency supplies, says Kim Ashcraft, chief financial officer of ARA's charitable organization, Hearts & Homes, where people can donate money to help victims. Seventy ARA members have signed up to spend the day cleaning up debris this Wednesday — which happens to be the same day President Barack Obama has planned a visit to the area.

"I can't even describe it. I've never seen damage this bad," says Ashcraft, who has lived in Arkansas all her life. "It's like a war zone. You could turn into a circle and there's nothing there — even the grass is gone. It looks like the land has been peeled away."

Ashcraft says the association has not yet heard how many REALTORS®' homes were damaged or destroyed in the tornado, which claimed thousands of properties. She did say that she knows of at least one real estate company whose building was flattened.

The REALTORS® Relief Foundation has donated $100,000 to ARA's Hearts & Homes to help the state association in its efforts to pick up the pieces. ARA spokeswoman Emily Morgan says the association will use the money to help pay for temporary housing for tornado victims.

On its website, ARA has compiled a list of available rental properties in several towns where victims can find housing. The association is working with FEMA to solicit rental listings from owners, REALTORS®, and non-REALTORS®.

There are plenty of people in need, Morgan says.

"I know of one family that had just finished rebuilding their home from a previous storm, and then it was destroyed again in this one," she says. "A brand-new school that was supposed to start being used in the fall was destroyed.

"You'll see pieces of metal bent around trees, big, huge trees completely uprooted, people's homes and businesses just in rubble piles. It's absolutely devastating."

Visit ARA's website to make a donation to help tornado recovery in Arkansas.

—By Graham Wood, REALTOR® Magazine

Read more:

Rebuilding After a Tornado: A Home Owner's Story
'Someone's Entire Life is Gone'
After the Storm