Southern U.S. states began digging out and raising money on Christmas after severe storms including some 20 tornados killed people and Mississippi declared a state of emergency. Above, the remains of the Beverly Chapel CME Church on old Highway 4 is seen after a tornado struck Holly Springs, Mississippi, Dec. 24, 2015. Reuters/National Weather Service

Communities were banding together and already raising money to help those affected by tornadoes and severe weather that ripped across the country this week, causing devastation in the South and Midwest before Christmas. In Mississippi and Tennessee — two of the hardest hit states — the Red Cross and local organizations began accepting donations and volunteers Christmas morning to ensure families who had lost homes or possessions had somewhere to spend the holiday.

Unusually warm weather spawned massive tornadoes from Arkansas to Michigan, CBS News reported, and states of emergency were declared in Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee as the damage continued through Thursday. At least 14 people were confirmed dead as of early Christmas morning, CBS reported — seven in Mississippi, six in Tennessee and one in Arkansas.

Red Cross volunteers were working in Mississippi and Tennessee Christmas Eve, WREG, Memphis, Tennessee, reported. The organization was also accepting donations on its website and at its office in Flowood, Mississippi.

Other local organizations and community departments put out calls for donations Thursday and Friday. The fire station in Senatobia, Mississippi, just south of Memphis, designated itself as a drop-off location for items such as water, nonperishable foods, blankets, diapers, dog food, personal hygiene items, batteries and flashlights.

In Holly Springs, Mississippi, where a tornado caused significant damage, the Holly Springs Multipurpose Center and the Salvation Army were also collecting donations. Local nurses and churches jumped in on the action as well. Eight Days of Hope Ministries collected Christmas presents for tornado victims in Holly Springs, and other churches were posting messages of support on Twitter.

Individual families also began organizing fundraising efforts by Friday morning, seeking help to rebuild their homes or aid for those they know who were affected. One page on the crowdfunding site Gofundme raised more than $700 by Friday morning for victims in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Others for families in Perry County, Tennessee, and Holly Springs had raised more than $1,000 by Christmas.

Those looking to help victims across the South can donate to a state’s emergency website, like