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‘Neighbor helping neighbor’

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Deputy Derek Carter with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office walks along Mo. 123 to check on progress as a tree is cleared from the roadway Friday afternoon. 

Left reeling after two tornados hit the area in as many weeks, the Fair Play community is coming together to help pick up the pieces for area residents who have lost everything. 

Several fundraisers have been set up for two families — the Chance family and the Jacobs family — whose homes were demolished when an EF-1 tornado plowed through the countryside and just skirted Fair Play city limits at around 2:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10. 

Less than 24 hours later, the Fair Play R-2 School District shared a Facebook post on its official page, seeking donations for the Chance family, saying “every dollar goes directly to the family.”  

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Sparks fly as a resident on South 11th Road, near where the tornado initially touched down, works to get vehicles and equipment out of a destroyed outbuilding. 

The post said those interested in helping could bring money or clothing donations to the school. 

Another Facebook fundraiser set up for the Jacobs family — Bailey & Alexis Jacobs Fundraiser — also began making rounds on social media, including the school district’s page. 

By Monday, just three days after the tornado, school staff members were busy handling donations brought in by students, families, teachers and staff for the relief efforts, R-2 Superintendent Renee Sagaser said.

Some of the tornado’s victims are closely connected to the school district. 

Sagaser said three of the district’s students lost their home. 

Bailey Jacobs is a mechanic at Nelson's Auto Services & Towing and works on R-2’s buses, Sagaser said. His wife is pregnant, and they have a 1-year-old child, she added. 

The tornado ripped the roof off another local man’s home, and he lost everything due to the rain that followed. He has no connection to the school, “but he is in our community,” she said. 

“Fair Play watches out for Fair Play,” Sagaser said. “I am so proud of our community and how they are willing to give when there are needs.”

Sagaser said this could have happened to anyone.  

“We are thankful no one was injured,” she said. “Things can be replaced, but we are so thankful we are still together.” 

She said those outside of the small town — including superintendents from surrounding school districts — called to check on the school and offer help. 

“Several of our vendors emailed me or called me over the weekend to check on us and to offer assistance,” she said. 

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Residents on South 11th Road, southwest of Fair Play, make a plan to clear to debris from a destroyed barn Friday afternoon. 

The school has some creative plans to raise funds for those needing help. 

Sagaser said the district is hosting a “hat day,” in which students pay $1 to wear a hat, this Friday.

She said students could also lend a helping hand in cleanup efforts. 

“We are willing to have a senior class work day once the families (express) a need,” she said. “Right now, everyone is waiting on insurance to come out.”

Another Fair Play business — Hannah’s General Store — is also taking donations for the Chance and Bailey families.  

People can drop off monetary, clothing and household donations at the store’s location at 108 W. First St., Fair Play. 

Saundra Hannah with Hannah’s said it’s all about giving back. 

“We're just a small family-owned business that this community supports all year long, so any time we can help back, we enjoy doing so,” she said. “We care about our community and can always count on them to step up and help those in need.”

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Metal twists around tree branches where an EF-1 tornado ripped through just hours before. 

Sagaser shared Hannah’s sentiment, saying it’s all about “neighbor helping neighbor.” 

“One of the students of the family came to my office today to say thank you,” she said. “It made me cry.”

‘Our hearts were touched’

Another family experienced the tornado firsthand, narrowly escaping its full wrath, as it struck a farm just west of Fair Play Friday.  

Structures and trees on Ronnie and Cindy Bruce’s farm were damaged. 

That night, Cindy said she was home on their farm with Ronnie and their granddaughter, Willow, listening to weather updates on the radio as the storm picked up speed.

She wasn’t nervous until Ronnie looked outside through the living room’s window and saw “the winds going in circles,” Cindy said. 

As the three put on shoes and made their way to a partial basement, her ears began hurting from the air pressure in the house, Cindy said. 

“It wasn’t too long after we went down to the basement it hit,” she said. “We were very blessed. It didn’t do hardly any damage to the house that we’re aware of.”

Their farm, however, was damaged. 

“We have an aluminum stock trailer, and it was turned in an opposite direction and turned sideways on its side,” she said. 

The shed where the Bruces park their vehicles was blown out, and the hay barn behind the shed destroyed, as well.

She said some of their calves received a fright. 

“We were very blessed that they all made it. They went further down the farm and stayed in the corner for a long time. I know it scared them.”

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A barn sits in shambles following an EF-1 tornado near Fair Play Friday afternoon. 

Cindy said the line of the tornado’s path — scattered with debris, metal and boards — is visible through the 150-acre farm.

“It went from one end of our farm to the other,” she said. “It’d be from the south end to the north end.”

Most of her children have been at the farm every day since the tornado to help clean up the damage, she said, and community members offered the use of equipment to clean up the debris. 

Overall, she said they’ve made progress, but they still need to clean up nails and metal so their cattle won’t step on it.

Cindy said this is the first tornado her family’s experienced at the farm. 

In the aftermath, the Bruces almost immediately received help from their friends, family and the Fair Play community, she said. 

“Our hearts were touched with how many people called and came by and helped and were concerned,” she said.

Her children said their circular driveway was like a “revolving door,” Cindy said. 

“It was full for quite some time. People coming in and checking on us, making sure we were OK,” she said. “We were extremely touched by how kind the community was.”

Cindy said she and her husband are grateful for everyone’s concern and help.  

“The things that are broken we can fix,” she said. “We are just grateful nobody was hurt.”

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