Helping Hands

Volunteers Lend Helping Hands to Midlothian Tornado Victims

One of the Helping Hands volunteer crews pause for a photo. Photo by Adrian Chacon.

On the evening of Monday, April 4, an EF-1 tornado touched down in the northwestern edge of the city of Midlothian and unincorporated areas of Ellis County, damaging the homes and property of more than a dozen families. Upon hearing of the destruction and that some of the families were uninsured, the Dallas Texas Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to take action.

After surveying the affected properties with city and county emergency management personnel, Dallas Stake Emergency Response Committee Chairman Adrian Chacon prioritized the needs and assigned crews of Helping Hands volunteers to clean up the properties. 

Eight homes in the path of the tornado were identified for work crews to clean up. Each of the homes had roof damages, broken or uprooted trees, and large pieces of sheet metal and other debris scattered across their properties. 

LDS Emergency Response Chairman Adrian Chacon and City of Midlothian Emergency Response Coordinator Tonya Hunter survey damages after an EF-1 tornado struck this neighborhood on Weatherford Rd. in rural Midlothian. Photo by Jim Brunson.

The top priority for the cleanup crews was the property of an uninsured single mom with a special needs child, a baby, and other children in the home. Her mobile home was severely damaged when the tornado tore away part of the roof. The rain then poured into the home, causing extensive water damage to the ceilings and floors. The tornado also downed trees, destroyed her storage shed, and spread debris all over her property. Similar, but less severe damage was found at three neighboring homes. 

There’s that missing hay barn! The tornado dropped a large section of a metal hay barn on the roof of the mobile home. Photo by Jim Brunson.

The task of cleaning up the properties took on a higher priority as reports were received that more storms were expected in the area early the following week, and the sheet metal and other debris could become projectiles, creating additional hazards to the families and their homes.  

Not far away was another cluster of homes struck by the tornado. Here, the cleanup crews faced a technical challenge: how to safely remove a large metal hay barn structure that the tornado had picked up and wrapped over part of the roof of a mobile home. Realizing that this was too big to remove without machinery, Jim Brunson, Dallas Stake Assistant Director of Communication, reached out to Ellis County Long Term Recovery Committee Chairman, Joseph Barrett, for help. 

Central Baptist Church Pastor Joseph Barrett dismounts from his tractor to assess how to remove the remains of a metal hay barn from the roof of a mobile home. Photo by Jim Brunson.

Barrett, who is pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Italy, joined the Helping Hands volunteers on Saturday, April 9, to assist with the cleanup effort. Using his Kubota tractor equipped with grappling hooks, the pastor skillfully pulled the huge metal structure off the home. No sooner was the structure pulled off the roof, than Helping Hands volunteers began cutting and disassembling the structure to remove it from the property. 

Troy Johnson and Erik Eliason remove broken tree limbs and debris from a property on E Wyatt Rd. in Midlothian after an EF-1 tornado struck the area on April 4. Photo by Jim Brunson.

More than two dozen Helping Hands volunteers from the Dallas Stake and the Texas Dallas Mission were organized into five crews and assigned properties to clean up on Saturday. In three hours, the crews completed the cleanup, picking up debris, cutting down broken tree limbs, and removing the uprooted trees, creating large piles of sheet metal and debris for pickup. 

Karl Rencher made good use of his chainsaw Saturday as he helped remove broken tree limbs and downed trees after the tornado struck a rural Midlothian area. Photo by Jim Brunson.

After the properties were cleaned up, Ellis County Precinct 4 Commissioner Kyle Butler assigned county crews to haul away the large piles sheet metal and debris from felled trees before more storms arrived. 

“The project started with prayer together with the homeowners who worked side-by-side with the crews and expressed thanks for the hard work of all volunteers. They marveled at the size of the debris piles collected,” Chacon said. Work crews wore their identifying “Helping Hands” vests during the event.

Dallas Stake Communication Director Mary Ann Taylor said, “This was truly a community effort as members of The Church of Jesus Christ partnered with city and county officials, the Ellis County Long Term Recovery Committee, Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and Pastor Barrett to serve our neighbors in their time of need.”  

A disaster fund has been established by the Ellis County Long-Term Disaster Recovery Committee, which includes the United Way of West Ellis County for victims of this storm. Donations made to this fund will be given directly to the families affected to assist in their recovery efforts. Donations can be made online by visiting or by mail through the United Way of West Ellis County at P.O. Box 1025, Midlothian, TX 76065.

Special thanks to Adrian Chacon for his contributions to this article.