Members of the Cross, Godsey, Johnson and Lovett families—representing victims of the Dec. 16 tornado—met in Town Creek Monday afternoon to receive donations raised on behalf of Landen Godsey and Ali Cross, Marcus Johnson, and Wayne and Rhonda Lovett.
Town Creek Police Chief Jerry Garrett said a GoFundMe account set up for the three families in January raised enough to distribute about $8,000 to each family this week.
“This isn’t including money raised by the Homeowners Association for the Lovett’s and Marcus Johnson, or the scholarship funds donated to Ali and Landen from Wallace State and the University of Alabama System Foundation,” Garrett said. “Altogether, about $80,000 has been raised for these three families.”
Garrett said the Alabama Manufactured Home Association raised about $20,000 for Johnson and the Lovetts, while Wallace State Community College of Hanceville and the University of Alabama System, with the help of State Senator Garlan Gudger Jr., provided scholarship funding to Landen and his sister Ali.
“55 days ago an EF-2 tornado struck Town Creek,” Gudger posted to social media following a special ceremony for the families on Monday. “Two lives were lost, and four people have been fighting for their lives in three different hospitals. Today there was a bit of beauty that came up from the destruction that tornado left behind.”
Landen Godsey, who continues his slow recovery at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, lost both his parents, Chase and Keisha Godsey, in the Dec. 16 tornado that destroyed his home and left him critically injured.
The 8-year-old survivor continues to steadily overcome his injuries, including head trauma, nearly two months since the tornadic event.
“He is starting to recognize people,” Garrett said Tuesday.
A Facebook page, Pray for Landen, shares updates of his continued progress. According to a post on Monday, Landen receives many visitors each week and continues to improve in therapy.
“Landen has done great in his memory testing, which will continue next week, even though he didn’t do so well in his swallow test this week,” the post states. “He started blowing kisses this week and even got to hold his own sucker. Please continue to pray for him to make a full recovery, and thank you all for the kindness and love you have showed him and his family we are grateful!”
Garrett said Johnson and the Lovetts, who each lost homes in the tornado and were critically injured as well, also continue to make steady improvements.
“Wayne has stood up a couple of times. Rhonda is still in rehab, and Marcus is talking and making amazing improvements,” Garrett said. “They all are improving. It’s still slow, but everyone is progressing.”
All three families lived along County Road 165, also known as Blue Hollow Road, which lies inside Town Creek’s police jurisdiction.
Gudger shared updates for Johnson and the Lovetts after the meeting with the victims’ families in Town Creek.
“We were told about Marcus Johnson, who was brought back from flat-lining twice, but today, for the first time, could speak and smile for a picture in his hospital bed,” Gudger announced Monday. “Excited to finally speak his mind since the storm, the doctors had to tell (Johnson) to slow down! An update on Wayne and Rhonda Lovett—Rhonda, the only one out of the hospital and in rehab is now living with her son for care; and Wayne, who we thought was not going to make it two weeks ago, is now able to walk himself to the bathroom.”
Town Creek Mayor Mike Parker, Garrett, Senator Gudger, State Representative Proncey Robertson, County Commissioners Bobby Burch, and Jesse Byrd all gathered at City Hall on Monday to distribute donations to the families.
Members of the Cross and Godsey families, including Landen’s aunt and uncle Chris and Cheay Godsey, were there to represent him and his older sister, Ali. Chad Sims accepted donations on behalf of the Lovetts, and Kimberly Hicks was present to represent Marcus Johnson, according to Gudger.
“Please show your encouragement as these loved ones support their healing family members and become caregivers for each for them,” Gudger said. “They still have a long road of recovery in front of them, but today your donations and those of others made their burdens a bit lighter.”