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Volunteers in Iowa step up to help those in need after devastating derecho storm

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KC McGinnis/For The Washington Post via Getty ImagesBy Eric Noll and Haley Yamada, ABC News

(CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa) — A group of volunteers is banding together to help Iowa residents after last week’s derecho storm-ravaged communities.

The rare storm caused nearly 13,300 Iowa residents to lose power and destroyed nearly a third of the state’s cropland. In the aftermath, residents across Cedar Rapids were left with spoiled food, no cellphone service and no air conditioning in the sweltering summer heat.

Pamela Smith and her children sheltered at home for the duration of the storm, which lasted several hours with winds up to 100 miles per hour. A week later and still without power, volunteers have been helping to provide the family with meals.

“I’m thankful for it because if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know how I’d feed my kids,” Smith told ABC News affiliate KCRG.

Stacey Walker, the county supervisor for Linn County, where Cedar Rapid is located, said the community is filled with people trying to help those affected by the storm.

“I’m here in our emergency operations center that is filled with women … who are working around the clock to keep our community safe and to help put it back together after this devastating meteorological event that happened to us last week,” Walker told ABC News.

Emily Holly, a disaster responder with the American Red Cross, told ABC News that the organization is trying to spread hope in Iowa amid the destruction.

“We are providing smiles through our masks and hot meals, and just trying to lift people’s spirits as much as possible,” said Holly.

The team at the nonprofit Operation BBQ Relief has been on the ground in Iowa since the weekend and has so far served more than 25,000 meals to families in need.

“We’re here on the ground of Cedar Rapids, Iowa doing the thing we do best and that’s serving the one hot meal that matters,” Dwane Daniel, director of disaster coordination, told ABC News

And no helper is too young, either. Eleven-year-old Christopher has been helping to clean up his neighborhood after telling his mother, Starlet Smith, that he wanted to volunteer.

“I wanted to borrow a rake and a bucket so that he didn’t have to carry the bags … and people just started chiming in,” said Starlet Smith.

She said that people had heard of Christopher volunteering and some chipped in to buy him supplies, such as a new wheelbarrow.

Brian Paris, a member of the community, bought Christopher a hot lunch, a hat for the sun and a broom, according to ABC News affiliate KCRG.

“I guess I would ask everybody to reach into your pantries and your basements and your storage tubs,” said Paris. “Pull out anything anybody can use.”

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