When tragedy strikes, East Texans pull together to lend a hand to help one another out, especially when it affects those in our community.

That is one of the great things about East Texas and in the spirit of giving, donations have been pouring in to help those that were affected by the EF-3 tornado that swept through Van this past Sunday.

Donations of clothing, toiletry items, baby items, non-perishable food and blankets are all being collected not only in Van, but in other areas around East Texas.

Seeing this kind of generosity makes me proud to be an East Texan and to call this my home.

My daughter came home yesterday with a note from her schools' student council stating the students wanted to do one final community service project for the year and that they would be collecting gift cards to send to the families that lost everything or nearly everything in the tornado.

Seeing this note from a group of elementary school students made me feel proud.

However, I'd like to say, we need to be aware of who we are giving to because with all tragedies, there come scam artists and cons that will say one thing and do another. Just be aware of who you are giving to and make sure they are legitimate.

You can help the victims of the tornado in the following ways:

  • Make a monetary donation to the American Red Cross -- specify for Van Tornado recovery
  • Make a donation to one of the many churches in Van
  • Assist in the clean up efforts

Churches and relief organizations are looking for specific items to assist in the tornado clean-up: baby items, cleaning supplies, large plastic storage tubs/totes, large capacity trash bags, work gloves, shovels and building materials.

These organizations are no longer requesting food and clothing, the thing that they are in the most need of is a monetary donation that can be used to purchase items that they might need and haven't received as a donation.

Volunteers are welcomed to come to Van to assist those that need help in cleaning up and are asked to check in through the United Methodist Church and are being asked to leave their clean up area and vacate the city by 6 p.m.

Churches in Van that are accepting donations as outlined above and volunteers are:

  • Van Community Ministries - 201 S. Maple St.
  • Assembly Of God - 409 N. Maple St.
  • Van United Methodist Church
  • First Baptist Church of Van

You can also follow along with recovery efforts and updates in Van through a Facebook page that has been set up.