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Aid groups get hot meals to tornado survivors in Mississippi

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

People in Rolling Fork, Miss., don't have much left after a tornado killed 25 of their neighbors and wiped out much of their town. Maya Miller of the Gulf States Newsroom checked in and found that a good meal is at the top of the most-needed list.

MAYA MILLER, BYLINE: Chanteria Williams (ph) waits in a line which nearly wraps the parking lot at Sharkey-Issaquena Academy. She's here to pick up a hot meal, hygiene products and clothing for her family. She was leaving work when she got the call. A tornado had damaged her grandmother's home. Her only son, who is 6 years old, was inside. And though they're all safe now, she says it's been hard to process.

CHANTERIA WILLIAMS: I don't like to talk about it because, you know, you get a little emotional and stuff. But we never had nothing like this, I can say that. So I think everybody in disbelief about this.

MILLER: To comfort people, Mercy Chefs deployed mobile kitchen trucks to Mississippi. Molly MacDonald is with the Virginia-based organization and says their mission is to get people fed. Mercy Chefs cooks fresh meals in trucks complete with vegetables and even dessert.

MOLLY MACDONALD: When you open that box and you notice it's more than just a hot dog or a sandwich or something cold, it's, like, nourishing to your soul, you know? It is literally feeding your soul, just warmth and comfort.

MILLER: The trucks have handed out more than 700 meals on this day alone, but they're equipped to deliver thousands more. MacDonald says they'll be here all week. And she's not alone. Ally Willis (ph), who lives just a couple of miles from Rolling Fork, says she's volunteering to keep herself from thinking about how heartbreaking it's been.

ALLY WILLIS: I come up here to volunteer because I had to, you know, find something to do. I just had to come up here and help my town.

MILLER: She says she can see that people have been hurt.

WILLIS: It's just devastating. I mean, I know after this, I know our communities, some of us are going to need some therapy - you know what I'm saying? - the kids and all.

MILLER: Chanteria also looks to the future, as her son clings to her legs.

WILLIAMS: My hope is that we can get everything cleaned up and back together, which I know it'll never be the same, but hopefully that we can get some stuff back the same.

MILLER: But it could take a while. Officials say more than 1,600 homes were damaged across Mississippi.

For NPR News, I'm Maya Miller in Rolling Fork, Miss.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Maya Miller