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Shirley Smith, 83, waits every day to hear the singing. From her living room, where she sits and cares for her 101-year-old husband, Joe Smith, she hears the sounds of MDS volunteers who are repairing their home in Selma, Alabama: hammering, sawing—and songs.

Shirley vividly remembers Jan. 12, 2023. As the tornado roared toward their home, she struggled to get Joe, who is blind and hard of hearing, to the bathroom in their home—the safest place they had. But she barely made it in behind him. “I had trouble closing the door, and I could feel my hair being pulled up off the top of my head,” she said.

MDS & DAO volunteer Aleah Troyer

The twister tore two rooms clear off their house and toppled three large trees in the yard, one of them sending a two-by-four through the bathroom window that hit Joe on the head, causing an injury that needed a doctor’s care.

When the couple finally made their way out of the house, Shirley was devastated by what she saw.

“At first we couldn’t get out—we couldn’t even go anywhere!” she said. As family and friends cleared debris, Shirley was able to get Joe to a doctor. Then the two moved into a local hotel, where they spent 10 days.

“That became too expensive,” said Shirley, so they moved in with family, then with friends. In March, MDS volunteers repaired the home enough so that the Smiths could move back in while the volunteers make additional repairs.

MDS & DAO volunteer Firman Yoder

Now, a hospice nurse is able to visit Joe at their home to help Shirley with her caregiving. “The tornado took something out of him,” said Shirley. “He doesn’t get out as much. He was really active before.”

Instead of going out, the adventures come to them, in the form of MDS volunteers. As MDS cooks came to the door, offering Shirley and Joe a fresh donut, she reflected she’s not just grateful for the volunteer labor—she’s grateful for the joy and liveliness they bring.

“The people have been so sweet,” she said. “Every morning and every night, I say a prayer for them.”


Susan Kim, MDS Writer


Interested to hear more about recovery efforts in Selma? Click here to hear reflections from a volunteer!

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