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March 8, 2012

Faith, family and friends pull community together

Wanda English Burnett
    It's a story of tragedy and triumph as the people of Holton mourn the loss of two lives, Ronald Pickett and Victor Armando Hernandez Carranza, and then see the overwhelming outpouring of love and generosity from family, friends, and people they have never met before.
    "They have come in here from everywhere," commented Holton's Marshal Bob Curl. He said work crews are continuing to arrive to help, for free, with the massive clean up of a town that saw more than $6M worth of damage with more than 20 homes damaged or flattened - leaving many homeless, and others without much left.
    After the initial shock came for residents, the grief began for the two people who lost their lives.



Holton firemen attended the community service headed by Bob McCreary, pastor of the Holton Christian Church on Sunday evening. The service was held at the Methodist Church since it did not sustain any damage in the tornado. Holton Town Marshal Bob Curl wipes a tear as he remembers fond memories of Ron Pickett, a former firefighter, who lost his life in the tornado.

    Everything came to a halt as Pickett was laid to rest on Tuesday, March 6 with a procession of fire, EMS, police, motorcycles, paving the way for the Neal's Funeral Home to bring his body with the dignity he deserved to the Holton Cemetery. Firefighters stopped what they were doing and stood at attention as he was escorted through town past the fire department he served for so many years. Volunteers stopped sorting clothes and stood with the firemen with tears streaming down faces as the procession passed by.
    On a mailbox, a lone Task Unit One jacket, belonging to a member who served with Pickett on that unit, waved proudly in the breeze. It was a day of grieving, remembering and healing.
    A dinner was served following the burial service for the family at the Holton Christian Church and then it was back to work - ironically, exactly what Pickett would have been doing if he had survived, helping others.


Pictured above a Holton fire truck led the funeral procession for Ronald Pickett bringing their friend, and past fellow firefighter's body past the fire house where he served for so many years. The procession also had a Rescue 69 truck due to Pickett's involvement in that organization where he served as a past president for almost nine years. Pictured at right, the littliest firefighter, Oliver Ballmer, 3, son of Josh Ballmer, a fireman for Holton, donned his little jacket and a big hat and stood with the firemen as his friend passed by. He was bolstered by his mother, Kayla Ballmer, who is protective of her son due to him already having several surgeries on his heart. His father, Josh Ballmer, is a fireman on the Holton department so maybe he's following in his father's footsteps! The funeral was held Wednesday morning with the burial in the Holton Cemetery. The procession and burial services brought the town's clean-up work to a halt to remember their friend and community servant.

    Funeral services for Victor Armando Hernandez Carranza, 27 also of Holton, will be held Friday, March 9 at St. John's Catholic Church in Osgood. The viewing will be from 10 a.m. until 10:45 a.m. with funeral services following at 11 a.m. Burial will be in the Huerto de los Olivos, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Neal's Funeral Home, Osgood, is in charge of the arrangements.
    The worst tornado to hit the area now has the entire area receiving help from individuals, churches, businesses, organizations and government agencies.
    Local government, including Ripley County Commissioners and Ripley County Council were in place immediately when the disaster came. The commissioners declared the area a disaster right away after damage was assessed. Both Commissioners - Robert Reiners and Gary Stutler, have been in the Holton area for the duration, along with other elected officials such as Ginger Bradford, Shawna Bushhorn and Bill Wagner, just to name a few..
Governor Mitch Daniels has now declared Ripley County among ten other counties a disaster emergency. While state teams didn't respond as quickly as some thought they would, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) had a team on the ground within the first twelve hours, according to officials from the agency. The Indiana State Fire Marshal James L. Greeson flew into town on Tuesday to lend support to local firefighters. He praised the effort that was underway. Joseph Wainscott Jr., executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security also flew in meeting with local government officials, offering help and hearing the stories of the great local assistance
Another chopper flew into town, a Blackhawk, filled with dignitaries from the Indiana National Guard with Colonel Brian R. Copes at the helm. A representative from the governor's office, Sebastian Smeleo was also on board checking out the damage. All of the men toured the area and went to the community center where they received the same warm welcome everyone did there, with offers of a place to sit, get a drink and something good to eat. "This is just amazing," Col. Copes commented. He was impressed with the community and the way they pulled together, along with the outside help that has never stopped since the tornado hit the area Friday night, March 2.

Many people are asking where do I go from here? How do I pick up the pieces of my life?
    As agencies submit information to the newspaper, it will be passed on to our readers. Also, the Ripley County EMA website is a good place for information in between publishings, along with WRBI Radio 103.9 out of Batesville.

Where do people take things they have found as they have been helping to clean up?
    People are encouraged to come to the Holton Fire Hall on Thursday, March 8 at 11:30 a.m. The Salvation Army will be in place and will be offering assistance.

The American Red Cross, who has been on the scene since the event occurred, will have an assistance group for disaster victims at the Holton Fire House to provide financial assistance to the victims. No appointment is necessary. They will be set up on Thursday, March 8 and Friday, March 9. You can see Delbert Felix or John Ryle, executive director for the group.

Southeastern Indiana Economic Opportunity Corporation (SIEOC) will have a van at the Holton Community Center at 12:30 p.m. and at 4:30 p.m. For more information contact Caroll Parcell, SIEOC at 812-926-1585 or toll free-1-888-292-5475.

According to Ginger Bradford, county recorder, people who find documents such as marriage licenses, death certificates, checks, statements, etc. need to be taken to the recorder's office in the courthouse at Versailles.

Representative Randy Frye will host a disaster relief meeting with a representative from the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI). The intent of the meeting will be to provide helpful information to aid the victims of the disaster and to answer any questions the public might have. This meeting will take place Saturday, March 10 at noon at the Holton Community Building on Versailles Street. Please call 317-234-2993 or 317-232-9831.

A toll free crisis counseling line has been set up by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). This is to provide mental health service for those affectedby the storm for free. Individuals can call 1-866-679-4631 and receive counseling over the phone or referrals for services.

Citizens can also call 2-1-1 or 317-926-4357 for help and information regarding the recent severe weather event. A local number that has been established by Ripley County officials is 689-5559.

Those affected by the tornado are asked to report damage online by visiting www.in.gov/dhs and clicking on "Citizen Damage Reports for March Severe Weather" in the middle of the page under "Topics of the Day".
"Individuals with damage from the severe weather must report quickly," said IDHS Wainscott, executive director. "The faster we can assess the situation, the bette".
People are asked to provide their name, address, phone number, damage to property and type of damage the property sustained. Losses can include structural damage to homes and loss of personal property. This report is not an application for an assistance program.
This is not an application for a grant with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Information will be used to help local emergency management agencies and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security preliminarily assess damage to determine if federal assistance can be pursued.
Those without internet access are encouraged to contact a friend, family member or neighbor for assistance. Web access is also available at many libraries, religious institutions, community centers and other public facilities.

Farmers in the area that have incurred damage from the tornado should report the damage to the Farm Service Agency, according to Steve Thurnall of the Ripley County Farm Service Agency.
Information needed includes: type, size, and number of livestock lost, number of acres that will need debris removal from cropland, and length and location of any permanent livestock fences that will need extensive repair or replacement.
He noted that the FSA sometimes has funds available through the Emergency Conservation Program to cost-share on the expenses of these activities. Also, to assist other government agencies in assessing the total damage, please submit information of damage to other farm related structures such as barns, grain bins, and any farm equipment damaged. USDA does not have any type of program available for those losses, but again will help assess the overall losses that resulted from the tornado.

Ripley County farmers should call 812-689-6410, ext. 2.

Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) says those affected by the tornado can request a replacement of benefits for food lost in this disaster. Only food stamp recipients residing in counties designated as disaster emergencies are eligible for replacement of benefits.
Governor Daniels has included: Jefferson and Ripley counties in those affected areas.
To qualify for replacement of benefits, you must report this loss by March 11, and sign an affidavit for replacement of the food stamp benefits. Those in Ripley County should report to 888 S. Adams Street in Versailles.
There are many relief efforts underway. Ripley County Emergency Management Agency Director Patrick Rose cautions people that just because FEMA came and did an assessment, does not mean they will get federal dollars. "It just means the damage has been assessed and we are willing to take all the help we can get for the people who have lost so much," he noted.
People are still encouraged to stop by the Holton Fire Hall and get needed items. They have everything from new packaged under clothing to cleaning materials and clothing that is like new or new. Also, volunteers at the Holton Community Center are encouraging people to come and get hot meals and food to take home to those affected by the tornado. They are overwhelmed with the generosity of people and want to share it with those who need it most.

To read these and more articles pick up a copy of The Versailles Republican at your local store or subscribe by clicking on the link above or by calling 812-689-6364.

Ripley Publishing Company, Inc.
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