CITY ISLAND, N.Y. (CBS 2) — Damage estimates from the deadly tornadoes that ravaged Alabama last month could hit a record $2 billion. More than half of the state’s counties have been declared disaster areas, and at least 328 people were killed.

The loss of life and property across the south touched the heart of one City Island woman, so she decided to do something to help. As CBS 2’s Don Dahler reports, her efforts quickly took on a life of their own.

When Patricia Madsen saw images of wrecked homes and wrecked lives, she said she couldn’t stop crying.

Patricia Madsen's home is full of bags holding friends' and neighbors' donations destined for tornado-ravaged Alabama. (Credit: CBS 2)

“As a mom, it was horrible, it was torturous,” she said. “I have two beautiful girls, and the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Oh my God, all those moms.’”

Madsen had a friend on Facebook who knew someone in Alabama who’d lost his entire family, so she decided to pull together a few items to send to him. Her husband, P.J., a fishing boat captain, happened to mention it to some neighbors.

“All of a sudden, he came downstairs the next day to take the girls to the park, and there was a massive amount of bags on my porch – and that’s how it all started,��� Madsen said.

The people of City Island began bringing bags of clothes, toys, first aid supplies, water and even food. Every corner of the Madsens’ home is packed – and people keep bringing more.

“It’s just amazing, amazing – that’s the only word that can come to my mind,” Madsen said.

Then the challenge became finding a way to get all of the donations down to Alabama.

The owner of a trucking company heard about what the Madsens were trying to do, and he had one of his drivers swing by to pick everything up – and take it to Birmingham, Alabama free of charge.

“People like this, you don’t meet everyday,” truck driver Roland Kemp said.

In a cold rain, Patricia’s family, friends and neighbors formed a line and started filling the big trailer, one bag after another.

“I might not have everything that I need, but I will open my door and say, ‘I’ll give a little something, and even if it’s just a little bit, it will mean the world to people who don’t have anything,’” Madsen said.

Madsen and her team are continuing to take donations, and the trucking company said they’ll keep making the runs to Alabama.

For more information or to find out how you can donate, you can contact Patricia Madsen directly at (917) 971-9945.

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