Following a series of storms that swirled through the Midwest on Sunday evening, there’s plenty of cleanup work needed to clear towns from debris and get families back on their feet. The good news is no United Church of Christ facilities were reported damaged. But there was a path of destruction that leveled homes in a few states, so UCC folks are helping any way they can during the season of Thanksgiving.
The Illinois-South Conference of the UCC, one of the hardest-hit regions, issued a call for local volunteers to assist in community clean up, and conference minister the Rev. Sheldon Culver added that people in the area have responded.
"Our people really do rally," she said.
In all, there were 91 tornados during the weekend of Nov. 16-17, which is unusual for this time of year. That is almost triple the average of 35 tornados in the entire U.S. for the month of November. There were six reported deaths in Illinois and three in Michigan, with more than 200 injuries in various Midwestern states.
Culver said that in New Minden, Ill., there are a number of houses that were heavily damaged. "We’re trying to provide cleanup, and helping families repair their homes and donating food for Thanksgiving next week," Culver added.
"We’re receiving money through the conference to help out families," Culver said, "and we have a lot of hands, gloved hands, on the ground."
Those gloves on the ground – volunteers helping clean up debris – are also making sure families are safe. UCC Disaster Ministries staff is in contact with affected UCC conference ministers and conference disaster coordinators to assess damage and offer support from One Great Hour of Sharing.
"Susan [Sanders] is sending a solidarity grant of $2,000 to our mission church (Zion Church in Metropolis, Ill.) to use as they see. They’re great people to work with.
"Money always helps, and prayers really help."
Even though there haven’t been any UCC families directly impacted, Culver said many of the families in southern Illinois all know each other and look out for each other. "There is good inter-community support. This is farming area, folks who care for one another," she said.
Donations to One Great Hour of Sharing, which helps families affected by disaster, can be made online.