Stories of Change
Top: tornado damage in the Dayton area. Bottom: Trinity Presbyterian Church members distribute CWS Blankets and Emergency Cleanup Buckets. Bottom photo: Eliot Hefen
When tornadoes hit, Ohio congregations receive support from the same organization they had supported: CWS
On the evening of Memorial Day, a group of 15 tornadoes touched down in western Ohio. Sweeping through with winds as powerful as 165 miles per hour, the tornadoes smashed homes, blowing out windows and peeling away roofs. They caused extensive damage in Trotwood, Harrison Township, Dayton, Beavercreek and Celina. Some of the heaviest damage happened in Trotwood, where the tornadoes knocked houses off their foundations and damaged several apartment buildings, including one complex where the entire roof was torn away, displacing many people. Officials reported that two people were killed and about 90 were injured.
The following morning, the Rev. Terry Kukuk knew the churches in the area needed to help respond. She is the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of the Miami Valley.
“Immediately we knew that we had to mobilize and do something because our neighbors were in need. So, throughout the course of the first couple of days as we were trying to gain footing and how to help, not only did we call in our Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Team, then we were also encouraged [to contact] Church World Service–and that’s when the bell went off. Oh, my gosh! All of the years of packing the kits and the blankets and the buckets, now they can come to us,” said Rev. Kukuk.
Church World Service provided 60 lightweight blankets, 60 hygiene kits and 180 cleanup buckets to the Miami Presbytery for tornado response.
Rev. Kukuk immediately enlisted the help of the members of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Dayton. Trinity Church is near several areas affected by the tornadoes. Several members of the congregation had their homes damaged during the tornadoes, including their pastor. He and his wife will be staying in a hotel for six months because their home was damaged. Thankfully, it can be rebuilt.
Some of the hygiene kits and blankets were donated to churches serving as temporary shelters. For example, Corinthian Baptist Church was hosting families who were displaced. Bethesda Temple also received CWS Blankets for the individuals staying at their temporary shelter for the American Red Cross.
“When you are staying in a temporary shelter something as simple as a CWS Hygiene Kit and a soft blanket to keep you warm can provide you with a little piece of comfort and dignity,” said Rev. Kukuk.
Several days into the distribution of CWS Kits and Blankets, the members of Trinity Church discovered a different need. Many people who lost their homes or apartments were being asked to move into apartments that were not cleaned and ready for renting.
“The apartments they were moving into were not rent-ready. They were unkempt and uncleaned, and the buckets came in handy for them to clean up the apartments and get them ready to live in,” said Eliot Heflin, a long-time member of Trinity Church, who is currently serving as Ruling Elder.
Rosemary Smith, a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church for over 30 years, also expressed joy about receiving the donations from Church World Service. “In those 30 years, we have given consistently to the missions of the nation and the world. The tornado and its effect on us as a community is the first time I’ve seen our dollars come back to us. As Christians, we know that we are supposed to take care of the physical needs of each other, just like Christ did. So God is with us and has always been with us. It’s in times like this that we as a community really come together and accept God’s charge to care for God’s people.”
As the cleanup process continues in the Dayton area, people who lost the roofs of their homes and now have water damage are receiving the CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets. They are the perfect way to start the cleanup process.
Rev. Terry Kukuk reminds the congregations and donors of the importance of continuing to make CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets. “We look at the buckets as our faithfulness. It’s our faith in action, that we pack these buckets and we send them off. We don’t know who they are going to, but we know they are going to someone. And that’s just an incredible way that the Spirit prompts us to act. And what I think is great about the buckets is that they are ready to go long before a disaster hits. So when that disaster hits we have an immediate response.”
Church World Service can provide CWS Kits and CWS Blankets in times of need because of the generosity of our dedicated congregations and volunteers. Because of the support of our donors, Church World Service has distributed 4,342 emergency cleanup buckets, 5,580 hygiene kits, 1,460 school kits, 10,351 lightweight blankets and 3,063 heavyweight blankets so far in 2019. Thank you!
“It was an amazing feeling that usually we are the ones sending the buckets off and now they are coming to us and we are just grateful for the immediate response of Church World Service,” said Rev. Kukuk.
“It’s more than just a bucket. It’s become a bucket of hope.”