Brethren Disaster Ministries Responds to Illinois Tornado Outbreak

Photo courtesy of FEMA
An aerial view of tornado destruction in Washington, Ill.

By Jane Yount

Following an intense outbreak of thunderstorms and tornadoes that heavily impacted parts of Illinois and Indiana on Sunday, Nov. 17, Brethren Disaster Ministries is preparing to be involved as needed in those states.

Preliminary reports indicate some 91 tornadoes resulted in six fatalities and approximately 150 to 200 injuries. In Illinois, more than 1,000 residences sustained moderate to severe damage, with the heaviest damage in the towns of Washington and Minden. Indiana fared better with 26 counties reporting damage to about 56 dwellings and 2 schools.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is supporting Church World Service (CWS) efforts to provide disaster recovery training for communities hit by the tornadoes and material aid shipments such as Emergency Clean-up Buckets, Hygiene Kits, Baby Care Kits, School Kits, and CWS blankets. CWS responded to its first request for material goods by shipping 200 Clean-up Buckets to the American Red Cross Chicago Region for distribution in the Coal City area of Illinois.

Illinois and Wisconsin District disaster coordinator reports

Rick Koch, the Illinois and Wisconsin District disaster coordinator, is representing Brethren Disaster Ministries on daily conference calls of Illinois VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). He reports that VOAD member organizations are assessing where to send early responders.

“While Washington, Ill., was first in the news, many communities other than Washington have been hard hit,” Koch reports. “Coal City, Ill., also had deaths, and a trailer park was destroyed.”

Koch shared with the Illinois VOAD that Brethren Disaster Ministries stands ready to do long-term recovery work as the affected communities become ready.

In an e-mail message to Illinois and Wisconsin District churches he wrote, “First and foremost, please pray for the families who have lost loved ones, for those injured and for those who have been displaced…. Some of our Brethren families have been affected directly as well.”

In an e-mail update today, Koch writes that “lists are being posted by the Red Cross on items needed. They vary, so find the one closest to your area,” he says, noting that churches in the district may begin to collect items. Three different collection sites are being opened in Illinois, at Coal City, in the community of Gillespie near Champaign, and in Washington. He recommends that interested congregations talk to their area Red Cross for more information about the need for volunteers.

“Also please do not forget to give financially to Brethren Disaster Ministries,” Koch urges. Giving to the Illinois tornado response may be done online at www.brethren.org/edf or by check to Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is in touch with churches

Zach Wolgemuth, associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, has spoken with Dana McNeil, pastor of Peoria (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, one of the closest churches to the worst affected areas in Illinois. McNeil said the church is planning to get involved in clean-up work and other recovery efforts.

Cliff Kindy, South/Central Indiana District disaster coordinator, has reached out to several congregations in Indiana including Kokomo, Lafayette, and Logansport. They reported fallen trees and loose shingles but were spared major damage. “I’m not sensing any urgency in this state,” Kindy said. “I think the warning systems were effective.” He too plans to be in touch with his state VOAD.

— Jane Yount is coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries. Find out more about the work of Brethren Disaster Ministries at www.brethren.org/bdm . The program also recently announced a challenge to raise $500,000 for disaster response following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

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