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Jonesboro tornado cleanup volunteers learn to 'social distance'

Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, there are new rules for the Jonesboro community as they work together to rebuild.

JONESBORO, Ark. — Volunteers were out again on Monday across Jonesboro, cleaning up what an EF-3 tornado left behind Saturday.

Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, there are new rules for them as they work together to rebuild.

In disasters like the one in Jonesboro, this is where the American Red Cross shines. 

Volunteer Hansen Doolittle said they aren't letting a pandemic stop them from completing their mission.

"We are focused on the people. This is why we're involved, this is why we are volunteers, it's what we care about," he said. 

Honed in on the people's lives who have been ripped apart from Saturday nights tornado.

RELATED: 'It looked like a massive bomb had just gone off': Jonesboro community unites after strong tornado

People like Martha Haynie, who has lived in her house for 13 years and watched the roof fly off of on Saturday.

"I think we're still just in shock. It's so devastating and so many unanswered questions; what do we do next?" she said. 

Uncertainties of what the future holds behind the torn up roofs and knocked down street signs. 

Doolittle said it's heartbreaking to witness.

"We feel for them, we want to share in their pain," he said. 

Hoping to carry some of the burdens are the unsung heroes with the American Red Cross.

Pam Knapp-Carver is the executive director for the Northeast Arkansas Chapter of the American Red Cross. She said it's not their usual disaster relief protocol.

"To be quite honest, things are moving slower than they normally would due to COVID," she said. 

The national pandemic making the agency tweak a few things, according to Carver. 

RELATED: Tornado tears through Jonesboro, leaves extensive damage

Things like taking volunteers' temperatures, handing out gloves and masks, making groups smaller and dropping off cleanup kits at the end of the street. 

"Our main goal is to ensure that our community is taken care of all while keeping everyone safe," she said. 

For volunteers like Doolittle, physical touch is what they're missing. 

"Most of us in the Red Cross are huggers, so the very difficult part is not being able to share in what is a life-changing experience for these people," he said.

The tornado was an unshakeable moment for the Jonesboro community, but Haynie said there is gratefulness at the heart of it all.

"We can rebuild a house, we can get new cars, but can't replace us," she said. 

To see how you can donate or volunteer, reach out to Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767.