"April 27 was a horrible day," Levitt said. "I knew we were having storms here. But that day, a friend of mine called me from Maryland and told me I better turn on The Weather Channel. ... I said, 'Why The Weather Channel?' She said, 'Didn't you tell me your hometown was called Cordova, Ala.?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'It's on The Weather Channel.' Cordova was the little town, that [was] all The Weather Channel focused on until Tuscaloosa was hit that evening.
"This is my hometown. This is where I graduated high school, where my parents and my grandparents grew up. Probably 80 percent of my family still lives in the areas of Alabama that were affected around Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. When all was said and done my hometown got hit twice that day. There are only two businesses still existing. All of downtown was affected. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of the homes in town were either destroyed or damaged so badly they can't be repaired."
To help raise gas money to transport supplies to Cordova in the near future, Levitt is selling Joy to the World teapots and sip and snacks, which are teacup and plate sets, for $5 each at the Downtown Farmers Market. She is hoping to draw a lot of interested shoppers on Saturday morning. Held at Founders Oak Park along Public Square in Cartersville, the market opens at sunup and closes about noon or when the farmers sell all of their produce.
The hundreds of orange and yellow diamond-patterned items, which were donated to Levitt by Hands and Feet Ministries in Adairsville, were created by Sandy Clough. Along with the Farmers Market, she also is selling them at the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority-operated Welcome Center at the train depot. All of the proceeds will go toward the Flipping for Families program organized by Freewill Baptist Disaster Relief in Alabama. The outreach project repairs residences for free if the owners allow a tornado victim to live there for a year, free of charge.
"I was a quarter of a mile from the tornadoes that struck here in the Kingston area and went through hearing things torn up and hoping that our home would still be there in the morning," said Liz Hood, executive director of the Cartersville DDA. "So I can't imagine what the people who have no homes to go back to experienced, because I know it was really scary to go through what I did just a quarter of a mile away.
"So after talking with her, we had needed some gift items in the Welcome Center for visitors and [teapots and cups are] cute. They'll make great Christmas gifts and it's going to a great cause. We tried two, just to see if they would sell, and they sold the first day. So two sets are on their way to Oklahoma."
Once she generates enough funds, Levitt will make her second trip to Cordova, delivering supplies, ranging from furniture to carpet. She was inspired to support Flipping for Families, when she learned her high school classmate had helped spearhead the outreach effort.
"What they're doing is they're identifying homes that have been abandoned ... and they're making contacts with the owners of these homes," Levitt said, adding Flipping for Families has 12 more homes to rehab. "If you will sign a contract and let someone who lost their home to the horrible tornadoes live here rent free for one year, our church, through donations and volunteers, will restore these homes. At the end of the year, you can do with it what you want, but that gives these people a year to get back on their feet. Last week they had over 150 missionaries from around the country come in to work.
"As soon as I heard about it, I felt like God was telling me to get involved. So I started sending out emails and posting it on Facebook. Within nine days we had filled a 17-foot trailer and all the donations had come in for the gas to help us carry it out there. One of the local churches donated some brand new building supplies. There was furniture. There was baby items, cribs, baby toys, baby clothes, food, water. People all over Bartow County were just wonderful. Every bit of this came from our local people."
For more information about purchasing a teapot or donating supplies for Levitt's pending trip, people can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.