By Kay Panovec
A woman sweeps dirt off her front porch, seemingly oblivious that her entire house is in shambles. Windows blown out, uprooted trees, power lines strewn across the road and vehicles slammed against homes. Yet, she sweeps.
The neighborhood is eerily quiet, the silence broken by the sound of footsteps. People carry wet clothes, photo albums and sparse but salvageable items to a waiting truck. In Northridge Township near Dayton, Ohio, a man nurses his broken foot, injured as he tried to save items from his demolished mobile home.
A woman and young girl pull wagons filled with water bottles and homemade sandwiches, offering them to the people in the neighborhood and those trying desperately to provide safety and restore power.
Ten tornadoes and violent storms caused such significant damage that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in Greene, Mercer and Montgomery Counties. One person died when 140-mile-an-hour winds hurled his car into his home.
In Dayton, people line up to receive donations of bottled water and a warm meal. The pain is palpable. Volunteers offer smiles, hugs and prayers. Small acts of kindness provide a temporary reprieve from the monumental tasks that lie ahead.
According to Pastor Chris Reece, more than 1,000 people have been served through New City Church. He said they expect an additional 500 people in the days to come. The Rev. Peter Matthews, who serves McKinley United Methodist Church, said 148 families have received water and other assistance. Ginghamsburg, The Point, The Avenue, Fort McKinley and Mosaic United Methodist churches are also providing food, bottled water, phone charging and other assistance.
‘We can be captivated by the pictures of destruction,” said the Rev. Dee Stickley Miner, “but every picture represents someone’s life, lost memories, lost home and, sometimes, loss of employment. It is often the small acts, such as deeply listening as they share their stories, their memories, that provides life-sustaining hope.” Stickley Miner, director of connectional ministries, supervises West Ohio’s Disaster Response efforts.
More than 200 people were injured either during the tornadoes and severe storms or in the aftermath. Several homes are uninhabitable. Many businesses are closed, some permanently.
West Ohio Disaster Response Coordinator Jeff Walker reminds eager volunteers to be patient until such time when volunteers can safely be assigned to serve the area. “There will be plenty to do,” he said. “We are in this for the long haul.”
To donate online, click here. For those who prefer to send a donation, please make the check payable to West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church and mark the memo line with “WOC Disaster Response.” Mail checks to 32 Wesley Blvd., Worthington, OH 43085.
*Panovec is the Director of Communications of the West Ohio Conference.