American Red Cross
By CARL MANNING
At the Crossroads United Methodist Church in Washington, Ill., the American Red Cross shelter is more than just a place to sleep or get a meal. It’s also a part of the community coming together to help each other recover from the devastating tornado.
“This restores your faith in humanity. You see the tragic need but you also see people wanting to help each other. It’s a great feeling,” said Red Cross volunteers Dave Stoner from the nearby Peoria chapter.
Stoner is one of the shelter managers who watched as various services emerge with the help of various community partners. He said the tornado struck the afternoon of Nov. 17, some 150 people showed up at the shelter to get something to eat, take a break and regroup.
Dave Stoner waits for a group of people to enter the American Red Cross shelter in Washington, Ill., while Walt Lockhart coordinates activities on the phone. The two volunteers are overseeing the shelter at the Crossroads United Methodist Church (American Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)
“It gave the people a chance to collect their thoughts and that’s important,” Stoner said.
Stoner said church members stepped up and took over the job of cooking meals, providing people with hot food. Behind the serving line, church member taped to the wall some hand-made thank you notes, including one: “Thank you volunteers. We are thinking of you. Stay strong.”
Not only were the church members cooking meals, they also were busy filling rooms with variety of donated item including food and clothing. So great was the response that two days after the tornado struck, the church said it didn’t have room for any additional donations.
Beyond that, insurance companies set up information tables to assist those whose homes were damaged or destroyed. There also were charging stations for cell phones and the Red Cross with the assistance of the county health department set up a clinic to help people with injuries or needing somebody to talk to about what they went through.
Daniel Luthi is a Red Cross volunteer and a registered nurse who brought his medical skills to the clinic.
“I’m here because I’m interested in helping my local community. It’s important for me to see that neighbors are taken care of and that they get what they need, whether it is medication or a hug,” he said.
Daniel Luthi is a Red Cross volunteer and a registered nurse who talks to a resident of Washington, Ill, that was struck by tornado Nov. 17. Luthi said he enjoys using his medical skills to help his neighbors. (American Red Cross photo by Carl Manning)
Norma Oleferchik recalled how she huddled in her bathtub as the tornado approached her apartment complex. She attributes her survival to prayer as the tornado grew louder.
“Suddenly, I felt the tornado turning and the sound got less and it just went the other way,” she said.
Norma said while she’s concerned about the future, she’s also grateful for the assistance she has received.
“These people are so great. Thank God for having angels on earth,” she said.