An F-3 tornado struck Mullica Hill, New Jersey, on Sept. 1, 2021, as an aftereffect of the deadly Hurricane Ida slamming the southeastern United States. Sustaining maximum winds of 150 mph, the tornado traveled 12.6 miles in a matter of minutes and caught many homeowners by surprise.
The tornado, and the following rainstorm, damaged or destroyed over a hundred homes, displacing many New Jersey residents and their families. The tornado also destroyed New Jersey’s largest dairy farm, owned by the Eachus family, causing irreparable damage to equipment and barns.
Videos of the tornado went viral online, spreading awareness for the community.
In the midst of the devastation, much of the community has rallied behind the words #HarrisonStrong, a hashtag that currently has over 1,000 posts on Instagram from local community members who send their support.
In the days after the tornado, friends, and complete strangers, brought equipment to aid in the clearing of debris, bringing with them food trucks and water. Community members met each other for the first time while sawing fallen trees in someone else’s yard, showing each other videos of the tornado and its destruction.
In a letter sent out to the community two weeks after the tornado, Mullica Hill Mayor Lou Manzo stated, “Long after time fades the memory for those of us not directly impacted by the tornado, many families in our community will still be ‘rebuilding.’ We must pledge to provide support and resources to our Harrison families until they no longer need it. That’s what defines Harrison Strong.”
The local community wanted to do more than they already were to define “Harrison Strong” and created an event to raise money for the families who lost their homes to the tornado.
On Sunday, Oct. 17, local businesses hosted a fundraiser for those who lost their homes in the tornado from 12-4 p.m. in Mullica Hill. Titled “We Rebuild: #Harrison Strong,” the fundraiser was located at Naples in Mullica Hill. At the fundraiser, Mayor Manzo took the stage to encourage continued community action.
“Some people may have moved on, but we will be here [to help those who lost their homes] in a month, in six months, in a year,” Mayor Manzo said.
The event hosted a wide range of activities for the community, from a ticket auction and drinks for adults to pumpkin painting and balloons for children, allowing all different members of the community to enjoy themselves. The baskets for the auction were donated by local businesses and included fishing trips, coupons or gift certificates, among other items.
Food was cooked and served by Naples Ristorante, one of the original businesses associated with the event. Desserts were provided by The Cake Boutique, a local dessert shop.
The event had over 50 sponsors, who gave donation amounts ranging from $500 to $5,000 for rebuilding. Funds from ticket sales also added to the rebuilding fund, as well as the proceeds from the auction.
The event is estimated to have raised over $180,000 for the families who lost their homes.
Even as the memories of the tornado begin to fade, the residents of Mullica Hill will continue to help one another, offering food, shelter or community support.
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