‘We keep getting blessing after blessing’ — Food trucks come to rescue for beloved Mississippi dairy bar destroyed by Rolling Fork tornado

Published 4:24 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The people of Rolling Fork have lost much over the last few weeks: their homes, churches, places of business and the town lunch counter, Chuck’s Dairy Bar.

However, thanks to the benevolence of a couple of people across the state, Chuck’s owner Tracy Harden announced this week that normalcy is in sight. Beginning this week, Chuck’s is back in the form of two food trucks and free meals for the community.

“We have a wonderful young lady, a part of the Manning family from Oxford. She came into town to feed us, and she offered to let us keep her food truck,” Harden said. “Also, there’s a guy by the name of Ken Blakeney. He’s got us a brand-new food trailer as well.”

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The night of March 24, Harden found herself and nine others trapped in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler, where they hastily took shelter moments before the EF-4 tornado destroyed the world around them. The cooler was the only thing left of the Dairy Bar, the motel property Harden owned, and the trailer park behind the restaurant.

Everything else was a mangled mess of sheet metal and God-knows-what. The once-bustling spot on U.S. 61 was nothing more than a scrapyard.

Harden said at this point in the recovery journey — less than two weeks after the storm — she is both overwhelmed and filled with gratitude.

“In the 16 years I’ve been doing this business, anytime something happened in town, I’ve been able to take care of the community,” Harden said. “Everything was gone and I was just feeling lost. But people came in and took over, and they’re allowing me to help through them. It just amazes me.”

For the next two weeks, Chuck’s will cook up food that’s been donated to the restaurant and distribute it to those in need, free of charge. After that, they will resume paid service, and for good reason — Harden said the team at Chuck’s was lucky enough to make it through the storm alive, and now, they will all be able to remain employed as they rebuild their lives.

“Because we have both food trailers, everyone will be able to come to work,” she said. “We had so many people come through the line yesterday, and we’ve had Easter baskets to give to the kids, and we’re getting to just bring a little joy.”

Chuck’s is not a place that will go quietly; the rebuilding process has already begun. Harden said, once again thanks to the kindness of strangers, she and her husband are meeting with architects and builders next week.

“I feel like, with us getting to open back up, it’s bringing some joy and some type of stability for people as we’re trying to get through this,” she said. “I am just overwhelmed with gratitude.

“We keep getting blessing after blessing through all of this,” Harden added. “We are rebuilding as soon as we get our old slab torn up and a new one put in its place.”