Local volunteers head to Midwest to help tornado victims

STUART, FL (WFLX) -- They're normally the first to respond to an emergency in Martin County, but now members of the Martin County Sheriff's Office are responding to help those in the Midwest.

The National Weather Service says at least 30 people died in both Indiana and Kentucky after tornadoes swept through the area.  

Around 11 a.m. on Sunday, the men and women who are normally armed with guns and badges were carrying travel bags.

"I brought a lot of warm clothes," Martin County Sheriff's Deputy Christine Polizzi said. "A lot of sweatshirts and sweatpants."

Other than clothes to keep warm, Martin County Sheriff's Chaplain Bryan Irvine said they brought saws, axes, shovels and more to do a lot of work on the ground in Henryville, Indiana.

Henryville is a southern Indiana city of about 2,000 people that was wiped out by an EF-4 tornado March 2nd, according to the National Weather Service.

An EF-4 is one notch lower than the strongest rated tornado.

"We have $1,300 that was donated and what we're going to do is go out there and assess what they really need and go from there," Chap. Irvine said.

It's a team of 7 people from New Beginnings Church in Palm City and the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

Sgt. Shawn Marques, Polizzi Karen Kneubehl of animal control, Berta Stevens, Mark Howell and Nick Scardigno from New Beginnings Church are going to help with Chap. Irvine's mission.

Some of this team went with Irvine to help in Haiti after a quake devastated that area.

"The circumstances are different," Chap. Irvine said. "When we went to Haiti there were 100's of thousands of people missing and dead."

He said that was more of a medical mission and with at least three people dead in Henryville, this trip is more of a clean up and rebuilding effort.

They have a back seat full of goodies including cookies and sandwiches and a trunk full of materials, so much they were concerned all of the volunteers couldn't fit.

This team is going to help several Clark County Sheriff's Office families who lost their home from the damaging winds.

"I want to help the law enforcement community," Polizzi said. "A lot of deputies lost their homes.  We're a tight knit group all over the world and I wanted to help."

With a trunk packed and van packed full of people, after a 16-hour drive, this group will be on the front lines trying to help rebuild a community in disarray.

Sheriff's Office employees are using their vacation time to go on the trip. Irvine's pastor, John Bartz of New Beginnings Community Church in Palm City, is paying for the fuel and expenses for the trip.

If you'd like to help contact New Beginnings Church at 772-285-6336 or by e-mail at newbencc@yahoo.com.