More than 27,000 photos buried or blown away in the Joplin tornado now sit in a church room where volunteers sift, sort and clean them. Angela Walters, a genealogist in Oklahoma, posts nearly 1,000 of them a week on her Facebook page – the Lost Photos of Joplin. Nearly 500 photos, spanning more than a century, have found their owners, according to the Huffington Post.

“When a disaster happens, as soon as you hear a family is safe, the next thing you always think about is photos,” Walters said. “They’re irreplaceable. We can go back to the time and place and people we don’t have in front of us anymore. They’re the record of our lives.”

After Walter began the Facebook page, she joined forces with another similar local project, and then First Baptist Church in Carthage stepped up, offering their facilities and volunteers.

Other personal items like DVDs and letters are being returned as well.

Judy Lowe and her son, Scott, donated about 65 photos they found on their rubble-filled street. “All this other stuff is just stuff,” she says. “It’s the memories that count – and the photos.”

Check out the Joplin group on the Help-Portrait Community site.