During the season of giving, one United Church of Christ congregation is providing a family a place to live after their home was damaged in November's tornados. St. Paul's UCC in Nashville, Ill. has an unused parsonage, and decided to put it use to help put a roof over their heads -- even though the family doesn't belong to the church.
"I'm grateful we were able to offer it to them. We just didn't want them to have to have Thanksgiving or Christmas bouncing around from place to place," said the Rev. Jean Carmine, interim pastor of St. Paul's UCC. "It's remarkable to look at the connections of our church, whether it's the churches themselves, or even our work with [partner organizations]."
The parsonage, a house on a lot next to the church, offers some privacy and has a comfortable living space for the family of four. The single-story ranch-style home has a basement, and is well-maintained by St. Paul's UCC.
At one point, the church considered opening the parsonage to one of three families, but the others stayed in their homes while repairs were made. The family that rents the parsonage now will likely stay there through the spring while their home is rebuilt.
"One of the things was so neat for me was that once we looked at who needed homes, they appeared," Carmine said. "As people needed things, shelter and supplies, we were able to help out."
The Rev. Sheldon Culver, conference minister for the Illinois-South Conference of the UCC said that Carmine "really gets how to work with those kinds of issues and reach out into the community."
A series of tornadoes touched down throughout the Midwest on Nov. 16-17, and hit the southern Illinois region particularly hard. The UCC Disaster Ministries team has been in contact with affected UCC conference ministers and disaster coordinators to offer support from One Great Hour of Sharing.
"It's touching to me the resilience of the folks here. Folks have really responded from all over the United States, not just the Midwest," Carmine said.
Ninety-one tornados touched down during that November weekend, 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.
Donations to One Great Hour of Sharing, which helps families affected by disaster, can be made online.