'We can fix this and we will': NJ tornado has residents grateful for community support

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Thursday, September 2, 2021
NJ tornado has residents grateful for community support
Residents in Mullica Hill are grateful for the support of neighbors and strangers alike after a tornado barreled through their homes.

MULLICA HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I'm feeling good in a way because, look at all the friends I got," said Richard Hoagland while standing outside his damaged home.

Family members swarmed to his aid like loyal members of a pit crew following yesterday's tornado in Mullica Hill. Living on the side of Route 322 for over 40 years, Richard says he has never seen anything like this before.

"And me and my wife got out without no scratches, so, that's the biggest thing," he added. "We can fix this and we will."

Somehow, only the west wing of the Hoagland home was affected badly. The roof above their bedroom had blown away, revealing a crystal-clear blue sky once the sun rose. Pieces of drywall and debris occupied the bed where they slept just a day prior.

"I just cry, I don't know what else to do," said Cindy Hoagland. "You know, you just get the house the way you want it."

Cindy loves cooking, which will have to wait until their house is habitable again. Richard is an avid gardener and had planned to sell his Chrysthanthemums on the side of the road once they bloomed. But his garden suffered the wrath of the tornado.

"It sounded like a freight train, and man, all you seen was debris flying," he added.

Between fallen trees and downed power lines, houses like theirs are difficult to access from the road. But that did not stop one volunteer from bringing coffee and donuts.

"Normally, we do hurricane relief down south. You're here in New Jersey, you don't expect this to really happen," said Michele Gambone. "So then, I just started driving, trying to hit the areas that were hit."

Gambone founded The Unforgotten Haven, a non-profit in Blackwood, New Jersey, in 2014. Six days per week, locals in need can shop for essential items at no cost. It will soon be expanding into a new building that will serve as a hub for volunteers. Every Sunday, the group dispatches volunteers to Philadelphia and Camden to help the homeless.

In fact, the volunteer organization was working through the rain last night to bring relief to those in need. But this morning, Gambone felt like she had to do more.

"Families have lost everything, so they can't really afford to be paying people," she said. "And if you could show up and volunteer your time, it would mean so much more to the families, I think."

Other organizations in the surrounding area have banded together to donate food and resources to the affected households. A Facebook page was created to connect residents and volunteers to the resources they need to find or offer help.

It will be an all-hands-on-deck operation moving forward for families in the area.

"You see all the cars, all the friends and family," said Cindy while looking out her front door. "Family is everything. So, we're very fortunate."

READ MORE: 7 tornadoes confirmed so far across southeastern Pa. and southern NJ after Ida remnants strike

Action News viewer video showed a tornado forming near the Burlington-Bristol Bridge on Wednesday.