Weather News

‘I need thoughts and prayers’: Donations sought for farms hit by Kansas tornado

Pendleton’s Country Market in Lawrence was decimated Tuesday night when it fell directly in the path of an EF-4 tornado that ripped through homes in eastern Kansas.

For the Pendleton family, it was the second time they had been hit by something like this.

Thirteen years ago a microburst took out two silos and the farm’s machine shed, and damaged greenhouses.

“We thought that was the most devastating thing we’d ever had,” Karen Pendleton said “This was quite a bit worse than that was.”

In Tuesday night’s storm, the Pendletons lost the rebuilt machine shed, butterfly house and five of their seven greenhouses. The greenhouses that were not destroyed were severely damaged, as was their house.

In the two days since the storm two GoFundMe pages have raised more than $13,000 on behalf of the Pendletons and hundreds of volunteers have reached out to offer help.

Another GoFundMe to help rebuild Crum’s Heirlooms Farm in Bonner Springs, also hit by the storms, raised $6,600 by Thursday morning.

At Pendleton’s about 150 people made it past police barricades and arrived on the farm Wednesday to help clean up the wreckage, move salvageable plants, provide food and water for volunteers and even pick up the family’s laundry and hand out warm chocolate chip cookies.

On Thursday, about 50 volunteers had arrived by 9:30 a.m.

As a result, the Pendleton’s have been able to focus on answering the phone, managing volunteers and keeping things in order.

Karen Pendleton said she is grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of support her family has received in the last two days.

“It’s hard when people go ‘what can I do’ because it means I have to stop and think of something,” Pendleton said.

In some cases, Pendleton said, she has sent volunteers away from her property to her neighbors. Just within a mile of their farm, Pendleton said, she knows of at least nine homes that have been damaged, many worse than her own.

“I kind of felt a little guilty that I had so many people out helping me yesterday when another neighbor only had about 20,” Pendleton said.

Pendleton came close to tears as she discussed the financial support she said “might be a difference between us rebuilding or not.”

“I’m honored, I’m appreciative but it’s just not like us to ask for something like that,” Pendleton said.

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Pendelton’s Market east of Lawrence was, busy as volunteer’s came to help in any way they could Wednesday after the business suffered heavy damage from Tuesday night’s tornado. Richard Gwin Special to The Star

The family has not yet decided whether they will rebuild. They did not have insurance on the greenhouses because of the high cost for that type of structure. Pendleton said she and John Pendleton have run the market for 39 years and are at an age where they have to calculate whether it is worth it to rebuild. They don’t want to take on debt, Pendleton said.

The outpouring of support “means the world” to Pendleton.

“When people come and they want you to succeed and they want you to rebuild, I’m meeting their energy, I’m accepting everyone’s energy and accepting everyone’s prayers,” Pendleton said.

“I know often times people say how hollow it is for people to say ‘our thoughts and prayers are with you’ but I need thoughts and prayers.”

Many of the family’s salvageable plants have been moved out to the parking lot as the family considers how to sell the product when they are not accessible to the public.

Pendleton said they have 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of tomatoes that fell off plants during the storm. They will be selling some of those, as well as other plants and produce at the Lawrence Farmers Market on Saturday.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.