At least one woman in Fulton, Ala., had a happy Mother’s Day. Her home was nearly destroyed by a tornado and tarps now cover 90 percent of her roof but she still managed to give thanks with tears in her eyes.
The people she was thanking were the ones who put the tarps on her roof. Freddie Avila, a high counselor of the Mormon estate at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, led a trip to Fulton, Ala., to help victims of the recent tornadoes that left a trail of destruction through the south, including parts of Georgia, and killed more than 300 people in late April.
“She said to the other ladies that were working, my wife and three other mothers that came with us, ‘This is the most happy Mother’s Day I’ve ever had because you have given up your Mother’s Day to come and help,’” Avila said of the woman. “I told my wife that is something that we need to just keep in our hearts.”
Avila’s congregation, which is located in Decatur off Ponce de Leon Avenue, is primarily Spanish-speaking and all of the services are done in Spanish. He and a group of approximately 60 members went on the weekend of May 7 to lend tornado victims a hand.
“We met Saturday morning at our church at 5 a.m. and took off at about 5:45 a.m. We were supposed to be there at 7:45 a.m.,” Avila said.
When they arrived in Alabama they were split into groups according to which tools they had. Since Avila had brought three chainsaws, he and a group of around 16 other members were tasked with removing fallen trees and covering the roofs of houses with tarps. They worked on two houses on Saturday and stayed at the homes of local congregation members.
Sunday, as they began work on their first house, Avila was called to another home because a Spanish family needed a translator.
“These Spanish people told me that FEMA didn’t want to help them because they didn’t have any Social Security numbers so they asked if we could help them a little bit. So, we just called a whole team of Hispanic people over there and started working,” Avila said.
This is where he was thanked by the woman with tears in her eyes.
“Jesus Christ always helped others, so if we are trying to imitate his example we should do service to others no matter what type of people they are,” Avila said.
Avila said that at his church approximately 95 percent of the children younger than 12 are U.S. citizens but 60 percent or so of the adults are immigrants.
Eric Salvana, one of the church members who drove to Fulton, said that while they were in Alabama the group also took a trip up to Tuscaloosa to deliver some supplies to The Holy Spirit Catholic Church. When they arrived, Salvana said, they were told that many Latino citizens weren’t receiving the help they needed because they were undocumented.
“I understand that some of this [help] comes from taxes but these people are humans and they’re not animals,” Salvana said.
Salvana said that he was very thankful to see how grateful everyone in Alabama was but he wishes he could do more, pointing out that the tarps would only last so long before the rain started to seep in again.
“When you hear of these things in the news you feel sorry for them, but you don’t really know how bad it is until you see it with your own eyes. I wish I could do more...I wish I could help to build the houses again,” Salvana said.