CROWNS TO EMERGENCY RESPONDERS AND VOLUNTEERS who sprung into action following the EF-2 tornado that touched down last Saturday in parts of Meridian, Marion and Lauderdale County.

While a great many residents still desperately need physical and financial help as a result of the tornado, we were fortunate to escape with no serious injuries despite widespread damage.

Chainsaws have been buzzing and work crews have been busy since last Saturday addressing the damage, including a rapid response that allowed Magnolia Middle School and Carver Middle School to open on time on Monday and provide some normalcy to students.

The number of affiliated volunteers with trained organizations responding to tornado damage in Lauderdale County was expected to double to nearly 100 over the weekend. Volunteer groups such as the Americorps NCCC, Eight Days of Hope, Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief, Latter Day Saint Charities, Mennonite Disaster Service and United Methodist Committee on Relief were among the groups who arrived to help.

FROWNS TO THOSE WHO HAVEN’T GRASPED the extent of the damage and need in our community.

Twenty eight homes were destroyed by the storm, 42 homes sustained major damage, 26 sustained minimum damage and 143 other homes were affected in some way by the storm. Thirty-four businesses had minor damage, 10 had major damage and two were destroyed, Laura Carmichael, the city’s director of Community Development, said on Friday.

Ron Turner, executive director of the Meridian Housing Authority, reported the storm damaged about 80 public housing buildings, causing an estimated $2 million in damage. Turner said 22 families — about 50 people — were displaced by the tornado.

Much more help is needed for those recovering from the storm. Volunteer agencies said they had 135 work orders in as of Friday morning.

If you can help or you need help, call the city at (601) 485-1944. The city, also, has set up a Volunteer Reception Center at the Velma Young Center. An account has been set up at Trustmark Bank to benefit Meridian Housing Authority residents affected by the tornado, Turner said.

We hope state and federal representatives and agencies note the extent of damage and aid arrives quickly.

EXTRA FROWNS TO THIEVES who burglarized Southern Accents Boutique and Southern Business in Marion when power was knocked after the storm. While emergencies usually bring out the best of us, sadly sometimes the opposite is true.

CROWNS TO ALIXUS HEARN AND TEAMMATES on Northeast Lauderdale High School’s softball team who supported her following an accident last October that left her in a wheelchair.

As sports writer Elton Hayes reported this week, the Lady Trojans supported Alixus during her long hospital stay and recovery. Now she is back in school with a positive attitude and an infectious smile.

Whenever we lament our own troubles, there is always someone to show us how to overcome even greater challenges.

A CROWN TO THE MERIDIAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE presidential search committee for making the process open and scheduling candidate forums that are open to the MCC and wider communities.

The first forum is scheduled at 2 p.m. Tuesday in MCC’s McCain Fine Arts Theater, with Paul Miller, vice president at East Mississippi Community College, making a presentation and taking questions.

Community input is important in determining the next leader to a great community asset. We encourage you to participate.

A FROWN FOR LACK OF DIVERSITY among the four finalists that emerged from 61 candidates who applied to become MCC’s next president.

We are certain the four gentlemen selected are highly qualified candidates and leaders. In a county that has a population, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, of more than 42 percent Black or African American and more than 51 percent women, however, we would expect greater diversity in the pool of finalists to reflect that community.

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