Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton visited the communities of Washington and Gifford Tuesday (Nov. 19) to meet with pastors, disaster response officials and to examine how The United Methodist Church may be of assistance in disaster areas.
Bishop Keaton has requested and the United Methodist Committee on Relief has approved, a $10,000 initial grant to assist with disaster cleanup, recovery and assistance. The Bishop is also urging IGRC churches to take a special offering on Sunday, Nov. 24 for the Conference Disaster Response Fund (Advance Special #6800), that will supplement the UMCOR grant.
Persons are urged to give to this fund and requested not to designate their gift to any one location. This will enable the conference to respond to needs and give them the flexibility to address emerging needs as they develop rather than being restricted to one geographic area.
“Hold on to what the Psalmist has made known and confirmed for centuries: ‘God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in the time of trouble’ (Psalm 47),” Keaton said in his pastoral letter. “The holidays are just a few weeks away when we remember the greatest gift God bestowed upon us. Help us to provide hope and help to those who need it the most by doing your part.”
Governor Pat Quinn Monday declared seven counties state disaster areas after severe storms generating tornadoes and high winds ripped across Illinois.
The governor’s declaration is for: Champaign, Grundy, LaSalle, Massac, Tazewell, Washington and Woodford counties.
Quinn inspected damage on the ground in some of Illinois' hardest hit communities: Washington, Diamond, Gifford, Brookport and New Minden.
The state disaster declaration makes available a wide variety of state resources that can help affected communities respond and recover from the storms. The state of Illinois has personnel and assets that can be mobilized to help local government officials with disaster recovery, including such things as trucks, heavy equipment to remove debris, communications equipment and provide assistance with security and other public safety issues. The state declaration is separate from a federal disaster declaration and assessment will be reviewed to see if Sunday’s tornados meet federal guidelines.
Here’s a summary of where things are as of this morning (Wednesday, Nov. 20):
Coal City/Diamond Area: A four-mile path of destruction cut through the communities of Coal City and Diamond in Grundy County at the northern end of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
Dozens of homes near the Will-Grundy County line was either flattened or heavily damaged Sunday.
Some homes that were left standing have shattered windows and big cracks in the outer walls.
Coal City UMC is acting as a response center for disaster response. Hours for donations to be dropped off are: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. To inquire about donations of time and service, contact the Volunteer Call Center at 815.518.3061. This phone number is not for monetary donations or donations of goods. Coal City UMC is in need of a refrigerated truck to store donation of food items. Call the church if you have one available at 815-634-8670.
A Facebook page has been established as a help desk for the disaster: https://www.facebook.com/diamondtornardovictimshelppage
Pekin: 100 homes were damaged in the storm, 43 destroyed or uninhabitable. Two families from Pekin Grace UMC were affected. Cleanup continues and the community is still under a curfew. No teams are being allowed entrance at this time.
Washington: More than 300 homes were destroyed with one reported death. In all, 35 Crossroad UMC families and seven families from Washington Evangelical UMC have lost everything. In addition, we have received reports that the homes of retired pastors Russ and Karen Smith as well as Wayne and Kathy Armbrust sustained damage.
Crossroads UMC is serving as the community’s nerve center for disaster response. The congregation has cancelled all church activities for the immediate future with all of its staff and resources devoted to providing disaster response. At this point, donations of food, clothing and personal supplies cannot be received at the church.
More than 1,000 meals are being served in the church’s common area, providing meals to those displaced and workers. Church buses drove around the community Tuesday, passing out sandwiches and bottled water to 500 persons in the field. Three meals are being served daily, with various businesses donating food items to the food service.
Beginning Friday, Nov. 22, the church will go to a noon meal schedule only for Nov. 22-Nov. 27. Information on meals beyond that day will be announced later.
The Red Cross is also sheltering 28 people in the building.
Various agencies, including Ameren, Verizon, the Secretary of State’s office and various insurance companies have all established tables in a converted all-purpose room to provide “one-stop shopping” with disaster response. Medical personnel are also on-hand to provide basic medical care.
The City of Washington and its partners will be coordinating volunteers for cleanup efforts. You should contact the Tazewell County Health Department for more information. Their telephone is 309-925-5511.
East Peoria: East Peoria First UMC is part of an ecumenical response, serving as a Red Cross Shelter. Rev. Mary Arnold said much of the church’s effort has been in listing to the stories of victims and distributing materials and supplies as well as gathering information which will assist caseworkers later.
Glad Tidings Assembly of God is serving as the center for volunteers and the Baptist Church is managing the supply donations at the community’s Expo Center.
Gifford: Gov. Pat Quinn announced on Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin damage assessments in Gifford and several other locations devastated by Sunday’s tornadoes on Thursday.
Beginning today, Nov. 20, only UMCOR-trained Early Response Teams from the Iroquois River and Vermilion River districts will be allowed to work in Gifford to assist residents in cleanup and sorting of items from damaged homes. More than 30 homes were destroyed in Gifford. No confirmed deaths, four injuries and 200 homes damaged.
County Health Care and Rehab Center in Gifford is a shelter. Power is still out in Gifford, so a generator is being run at the Lutheran Church in Gifford where soup and sandwiches are being served. Because of the potential of downed power lines and gas leaks, the town is still closed to general access.
Rantoul First UMC has an emergency drop-off center in the Gathering Place, operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The church has already received food, water, cleaning and hygiene supplies, diapers, toilet paper, blankets and clothing. There has been an immediate call for plastic totes (containers with lids) for families trying to save belongings from damaged homes in Gifford. Totes and all supplies can go to Rantoul First UMC.
St. Elmo: Three homes were destroyed Sunday in St. Elmo in an area around Bail’s Lake just north of the community. The St. Elmo Ministerial Alliance is having a fundraiser Saturday to help the three families who lost their homes, which included one United Methodist family. Three other families at St. Elmo First UMC also sustained damage. The fundraiser will be at the St. Elmo Christian Church beginning at 4 p.m. Anyone that wishes to assist can call St. Elmo First UMC at 618-829-3364.
New Minden: The National Weather Service reported Tuesday that there were two tornados in the New Minden area Sunday. The first, an EF4, with winds of between 166 and 200 mph, hit New Minden and a house near Hoyleton. A second one, an EF1, developed from the EF4 (a common occurrence according to weather spotters), with winds of between 86 and 110 mph, cut a path through Washington County and into the Centralia area.
St. John's Lutheran Church in New Minden tentatively plans to hold its weekend services in the basement of the church's school building, the church's pastor said Tuesday. The church suffered heavy damage to its roof, and lost its steeple, when a tornado moved through town. Services are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday.
No decisions have been made yet regarding repairing or rebuilding the church and the church’s priority is on helping the 10 local families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Gift cards are being collected for the families. They can be dropped off during the next day or so at the school building, which is serving as sort of a command post, or can be mailed to: St. John's Lutheran Church, 15538 State Route 127, Nashville, IL, 62263.
An elderly man and his sister were killed in the tornados.
Brookport and Unionville: Rev. Ed Hoke and Rev. Pete Ryan are coordinating the United Methodist response in Brookport and Unionville. Residents from Brookport and Unionville began registering for assistance at Unity School Tuesday.
Beginning at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday (Nov. 20), volunteers are asked to report to Unity School for registration before entering the damaged area. Due to the limited geographic area of damage, only trained Early Response Team members from the Cache River District are asked to report at this time. It will later be determined if additional volunteers are necessary.
The following items have been requested by Illinois VOAD. These donations are being received at the First Baptist Church in Metropolis. Current needed items are:
100 gallons of bleach
200 totes of various sizes
50 sledge hammers
100 framing hammers
200 pairs of work gloves
100 rolls of plastic
Sanitizers and anti-bacterial cleaners
Damage in Brookport was 50 mobile homes and some businesses in its business district. There were three deaths.