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Putnam Student Receives State Honor For Tornado Memorial

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam Student Receives State Honor For Tornado Memorial

A Putnam County student has been awarded one of the Governor’s Volunteer Star Awards for her actions after the March tornado.

Cookeville High School Student Ella McGugin is the youth honoree selected for the county. McGugin led the construction of 19 crosses for the 19 lives lost on March 3rd.

McGugin said as a minor she was not allowed to volunteer in the clean up, but she still wanted to help her community.

“So, I contacted Mayor Porter, and I asked him about my idea and creating crosses to memorialize those who lost their lives in the tornado,” McGugin said. “And he was very supportive, and he really wanted me to go through with the idea.”

McGugin said once receiving approval, her Venturing Crew alongside with other businesses started working. The wooden memorials composed of angel wings, hearts and photos were displayed outside the Putnam County Courthouse for 19 days.

“Venturing Crew 170, they helped with it a lot,” McGugin said. “And another young lady in our crew named Emeline Dubois. She also helped me by my side through it. We both worked on it together.”

McGugin said the idea for the crosses first came when she surveyed the debris in her yard. Among the rubble was a piece of artwork from Hattie Collins. A four-year-old girl whose life was taken as a result of the natural disaster.

“Seeing that honestly made me feel like, ‘Wow,’” McGugin said. “It just opened my eyes up, and it was kind of like heart breaking to see that. It didn’t really affect me. The tornado didn’t really affect me until I seen that. There were like finger prints on the artwork, and the finger prints formed a little heart, and so that kind of came up with the idea of having hearts on the crosses.”

McGugin said she is humbled by the experience and is thankful to represent the many volunteers from that day.

“I feel really appreciative that I was selected for it,” McGugin said. “And I get to represent those people that volunteered during that tragic time. It makes me feel really happy for the community and that memorial and crosses have caused a really good impact, and I hope it helps people grieve and find some closure.”

All 80 honorees from 47 different counties, including McGugin, will be honored virtually on Sunday. Volunteer Tennessee selects nominees based on community need, initiative, creativity and impact of services.


The post Putnam Student Receives State Honor For Tornado Memorial appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.