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“This disaster occurred so quickly and affected so many families who had no way to prepare to cover the cost to put their loved ones to rest,” Stephanie Bryan, CEO and chairman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, told ABC News. “We live in an area that is prone to tornadoes and other natural disasters, so this a tragedy that strikes close to home in many, many ways.”
Bryan said that Lee County Coroner Bill Harris reached out to the tribe for financial aid in the aftermath of the tornadoes. Beauregard, a small town within Lee County, was torn apart by two tornadoes on March 3.
Initially, the tribe had agreed to donate $50,000, but Harris said it wasn’t enough, Harris told ABC News.
“[The tribe] said, ‘Tell us what it would take to cover all of it,’” Harris told ABC News. “I told them [$184,000] and they said, ‘Fine.'”
“I cannot thank them enough,” Harris added. “They have really stepped up to the plate on this one.”
Bryan said that this isn’t the first time the tribe provided natural disaster relief aid to a neighboring community, but it is the largest single donation the tribe has made to a county under her leadership.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized tribe of Native Americans in Alabama. The tribe has nearly 3,000 members, according to Bryan.
The two tornadoes tore through a roughly one-square-mile area of Beauregard, according to authorities. The storm caused the highest tornado death toll in the United States since 2013, with all 23 people dying from the first tornado, according to the National Weather Service. At least three children — ages 6, 9 and 10 — were among the victims.
One of those victims was Taylor Thornton, a 10-year-old who was visiting her best friend when the storm struck. Funeral services for Thornton were held March 8.
That same day, President Donald Trump visited Alabama to survey the damage caused by the tornado. Beauregard residents hope the president’s visit will bring more resources to the area. However, Harris also said that there have been many other generous donors in addition to the Poarch Creek Indians.