It has been 19 months since a deadly tornado destroyed Magnolia Knight’s home in Phil Campbell, but the anguish of it still seems fresh, and there has since been one setback after another in her life.
The 20-year-old mother of a toddler and infant is now living in the Shoals in government housing, awaiting the rebuilding of her apartment duplex in Phil Campbell.
“It’s like it’s just not even my life,” she said in tears as her emotions began to overtake her. “I’ve never had what anyone would call an easy life, but right now it’s just downright depressing. It’s just me and the kids, and I can’t find work. Lord knows, I’ve put in about 40 applications in the last few weeks.”
Knight’s family is one of about 1,900 receiving assistance for Christmas through the Salvation Army. Her children’s names will be on the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.
Unemployed since September, Knight said she’s trying to keep a positive outlook.
“I survived that tornado that killed people all around me, and I can’t tell you why,” she said. “That day on April 27, I looked out the window and saw the clouds doing crazy things and then I saw it. God told me I had three minutes. I felt him guiding me. I felt the power of God and the awe of God, like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
“I only had my (then 4-month-old) daughter at the time, and I grabbed her up and hovered over her in the center hall closet, and it blew away every single thing all around us. My car ended up in a neighbor’s house.”
For a while she was in transitional housing with other tornado victims. She then moved to her current location where she’ll stay until she can get back to Phil Campbell. Her second child has since been born, and she is raising her children alone. She is determined to be a good provider, despite receiving a temporary assistance check of only $108 per month.
For Knight, finding work has reached the critical stage: There’s formula and diapers to buy and bills to pay, she said.
“Christmas is around the corner, and even though my kids are young (2 years old and 11 months), I want them to have something for Christmas,” she said. “My friend told me about the Salvation Army Angel Tree, and I went to register. I don’t want to have to depend on assistance for Christmas, but I don’t have a choice.”
The TimesDaily-sponsored Empty Table Fund is once again assisting the Salvation Army in its efforts to help the needy.
This year the Empty Table Fund is in its 38th year of collections for the Salvation Army, with a goal of $40,000. Last year’s fund fell nearly $9,500 short of the $50,000 goal.
“We believe this goal is reachable,” said Donald Wilson, the Salvation Army’s commanding officer. “There’s evidence all around that the need is greater this year in that we have nearly 1,900 families who have applied for Christmas assistance and food, and the applications for help with utilities are up about 300 people from this time last year.”
The Empty Table Fund began in 1974 primarily as a food collection effort and has evolved into a public donation campaign. The TimesDaily sends proceeds directly to the Salvation Army to help offset costs associated with Christmas assistance programs, as well as to help those in need during the winter months.
The Angel Tree program will kick off Thursday with trees located at Regency Square Mall and SunTrust Bank on Court Street in Florence. This year, there also will be a tree at Wal-Mart in Russellville beginning Nov. 26. The trees, bearing the names of children ages newborn to 12 years, will be in place for angel adoptions until Dec. 8, with the exception of SunTrust, which is closed on Saturdays. All gifts and toys should be returned to the tree. Items also may be taken to the Salvation Army offices at 1601 Huntsville Road in Florence between 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
This year’s trees contain the names of 1,500 children.
The Red Kettle collections begin Friday and will be outside businesses in Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale counties through Dec. 24. Kettle donations may be made Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The goal for this year’s kettle collections is $90,000.
The Salvation Army still is seeking volunteers for ringing the bells at kettles. To volunteer, call 256-764-4432.
“The ups and downs in the economy certainly affect people’s disposable income, and we’re aware of that,” Wilson said. “We’re hoping that people will realize that there are those among us who are finding themselves out of work for the first time and have nowhere to turn, or perhaps they’ve done seasonal work that has run out.”
Wilson and his wife, Jean, said they’ve seen many new clients this year, people who have never before applied for assistance.
“Many of the people we’ve helped in the past are getting back on their feet again, but at the same time we’re definitely seeing a lot of first-time applicants,” Jean Wilson said. “It’s just a sign of the times.”
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.
Funds raised during previous Empty Table campaigns: