Salvation Army, furniture company, rebuild following tornado

Cinde Ingram, The High Point Enterprise, N.C.
·6 min read

Apr. 11—HIGH POINT — The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club and nearby furniture manufacturer Phillips Collection are dealing with extensive damage to their roofs and buildings nearly a month after a tornado ripped through south High Point.

Leaders of both organizations expressed thanks no one was injured and for an outpouring of community support even as they struggle to estimate the six-digit repair costs. The damages to roofing, heating and air systems and sports fields were caused by the EF-1 tornado's winds that reached a peak of 95 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Amy Hudson, executive director of The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of High Point, said she has been working to get quotes and bids while missing the students she normally oversees. Most of those students are temporarily served by the YWCA, YMCA and other programs that offered to help.

"When I talked to the parents at first, they were kind of frantic because they didn't know what we were doing behind the scenes to find them placement," Hudson said. "Once we assured them that we could help them find places so they could still go to work, it helped. The parents have been extremely supportive. They don't want their kids here if it's not safe either."

After the storm hit around 5 p.m. on March 18, Hudson began receiving calls from the High Point Fire Department and messages from friends who told her a tornado had touched down and caused substantial damage near her building at 121 SW Cloverleaf Place. No one was in the building at the time except Salvation Army Capt. Ingrid Ljungholm. The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club follows the lead of the school district, which had closed due to the inclement weather forecast. Its staff had headed home early in advance of the storm. The Boys and Girls Club was scheduled to close the next day so staff could get their COVID-19 vaccines, Hudson said.

Staff was still in the Phillips Collection headquarters on Finch Avenue or in the parking lot to head home when the WiFi alerted at 5:01 p.m., CEO and President Mark Phillips said.

One employee in the parking lot could not open his car door because of the back pressure.

Another employee said he felt the wind lift a side of his car as he attempted to exit on Surrett Drive onto Interstate 85 Business, Phillips said. Still another employee's pickup truck was dented after a heavy object was blown into it, which Phillips thinks could have been part of the transformer that exploded and was recorded via security camera.

"It hit us sort of dead center as you enter the building," Phillips said. "We had the roof torn away. Fortunately, we're in the old Rose Furniture building, which was not built for speculation but built for a lifetime."

Some of the 50 employees who are skilled at moving heavy tables were able to move product out of the way of the rain, Phillips said.

"We are still far from having our roof repaired," Phillips said. "We're still getting bids. We did get extraordinary cooperation from our insurance company to cut and paste what we needed to prevent further leakage. Apparently when a metal roof bends up, the integrity is gone. You can't tack it down because there will always be pinholes. A whole section will obviously have to be replaced."

Phillips doesn't have a cost estimate yet.

"Certainly our loss, between merchandise and structure, will be at least $300,000," he said. "It's certainly a six-digit injury."

In addition to short-term repairs to make the building watertight, structural engineers who assessed the damage told Phillips the winds lifted the roof and they suspect some of the damaged structural pillars can be rebolted. "Again, thank goodness for the great bones of Rose," he said.

Hudson is waiting on quotes but believes the Salvation Army repairs will exceed $300,000.

"The roof is $150,000 to $175,000," Hudson said. "It looks like we're going to have to replace the roof and all of the fencing."

When Hudson and Ljungholm toured the building the night of the storm, water was still pouring in although the rain had ended.

"We thought at first we might put on a new roof and move on, but that has not turned out to be the case," Hudson said. "We had a bunch of light poles fall in our playground and play field areas. The problem with that is there were 24 lights on each of those poles, so there's an enormous amount of glass spread across each of those play areas."

In addition to the roof and building repairs, the cleanup process will require bringing in fresh dirt and regrading those play areas.

Instead of taking their planned day off, the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club staff came in and literally started calling every parent, Hudson said. She received calls from YWCA High Point Director Heidi Majors and YMCA High Point Director Lynn Lomax and several others to say they had spots available for students.

"The community was great about outreaching," Hudson said. "It was amazing how people were coming out and saying here is how we can help, this is what we can do. They had some of our kids placed by noon Friday. I think we're blessed that I had a place for our kids to go. They didn't lose any time in remote learning and our parents didn't lose any time at work."

Hudson's staff also reached out to the Guilford County Department of Social Services because some parents receive scholarships to subsidize child care cost.

"So we called the county and they actually switched that funding over to the other places so the parents wouldn't have to pay," Hudson said. "The community has been phenomenal through this whole thing."

Phillips also found community support ranging from the International Market Center and other businesses.

"For me, the most amazing thing was the outpouring from the community, who unflinchingly said 'What can I do? What can I give? How can I help?'," Phillips said. "Call after call, it was what can I do? I've got generators. I've got tarp. I've got space for your merchandise. I've got heaters or dehumidifiers. It was amazing that you never know who's there and ready until the perception of need is evidenced."

Hudson recalled feeling overwhelmed during the drive back to the Salvation Army and a sense of relief when she saw the 1973 building was still standing and most of the past year of renovations were intact. The new Teen Center had been revealed just two weeks earlier.

"That would have been so scary for those kids," Hudson said. "We were blessed. Not a drop of water fell in that brand new room. When I got here and saw the new security doors were intact and did their job, it was amazing to me. The things I anticipated being wrong weren't. That feeling of being overwhelmed went away when people reached out and said, 'How can we help?'

"I think it just goes to show that our community is in it for our kids," Hudson said. "They just look out for them in a way that's unprecedented. I don't think every community is like this." — 336-888-3534 — @HPEcinde