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Mennonite Disaster Service – Western Ohio Unit responds to recent natural disasters

Thank you to everyone who made Saturday, June 22nd, a day of “rebuilding hope” in a small Dayton Ohio neighborhood. Volunteers came from multiple churches and communities throughout Ohio:  Hillsborough, Edon, Archbold, Bluffton, West Liberty, Plain City, Mount Vernon, New Carlisle.  Fifty-four (54) volunteers served with MDS Western Ohio and eight home owners, one church, and one non-profit were assisted throughout the day! We were again graciously hosted by Kevin and Beth Smith who continue to offer hospitality beyond description even as they deal with their own losses and share in the losses of so many of their neighborhood friends.

Everyone was on hand by the scheduled 8:30 arrival time.  As everyone was checking in we were blessed by donated donuts from the bakery in Bainbridge (near Hillsborough)! After a welcome, we began with devotions and prayer, followed by instructions and safety tips for the work ahead.  By 9:30, five different teams had organized and were on-site.  By 12:30 we were all back together in the Smith’s front yard for lunch: Domino’s pizza, water melon, fruit and vegetables, chips, and beverages and fry pies from the Bainbridge bakery!!  The afternoon began with six teams in the field and by 4 PM the work was wrapping up and volunteers were treated with cookies from the Bainbridge bakery. There are two explanation points worth mentioning that took place as the afternoon was winding down: (1) A large (LARGE) tree had fallen on a car in Ms. Connie’s yard. Other volunteer teams from various groups had advised that only a professional company with heavy equipment should tackle that tree. In 30 minutes the car was cleared by our volunteers! (2) John had a lengthy chain-link fence that had bent and twisted when the EF-4 tornado spun around his house and through his neighborhood. John, a disabled veteran, was convinced it was a total loss. But then, about 35 of our volunteers showed up and collectively pushed it back into place!

The MDS Western Ohio Unit (WOU) is responding to three of the most recent disasters in our region. WOU officers have been in direct contact with Emergency Managers in Logan County (West Liberty) and Auglaize County (Wapakoneta and Saint Marys) in response to the heavy rain in the region, especially the rain event on Friday, May 17. Volunteers have mucked out many homes in the West Liberty area and that work is ongoing.  Auglaize County has over 300 homes that have self-identified as needing various levels of assistance, primarily debris removal. We are waiting on the Emergency Manager in Auglaize County to give the green light to contact some of these individuals so that we can assist.

We have reached out to Huber Mennonite Church in New Carlisle to learn of unmet needs from the Memorial Day tornadoes in the Dayton area. The pastor has one family in one of the tornado zones that has multiple trees down, but no home damage.  However, the neighborhood of this church member will need assistance and we have organized a small team of volunteers who will assist there on Saturday, June 1st. WOU officers have met with the pastor and homeowner in Dayton and observed the damage first-hand.

NOTE: At this time, we are not asking for additional volunteers or donations (money or materials) for these responses.

We partner with multiple volunteer organizations in Ohio who work together forming short and long-term recovery (LTR) groups for these kinds of events. We also receive support and guidance from our MDS Region 2 staff and officers. We likely will be involved in several of these areas as the summer and fall months unfold. If/when needs become known, updates will be provided. Josh Shoemaker, President; Lawrence Matthews, Secretary/Treasurer; Don Kauffman, Coordinator; Wayne Yoder and Clete Yoder, area contacts.

On Saturday, June 1st, we worked with nine homes (9 job cards), completing the work we agreed to do for each. To say the work is done for these nine would be inaccurate. They are facing a long recovery!  However, it was clear to all how deeply appreciative each family was for the help they received today.

 There were officially 24 adults and 2 youth who worked with MDS (each completing a daily volunteer form). This does not count Kevin, our local contact person, and his extended family and other family members from most of the homes we worked with.  Two John Deere tractors also joined us, one brought by an MDS volunteer and one from Kevin’s family.  They were kept busy throughout the day.  Also, we were fed an awesome lunch by the Corpus Christi Fryers team.

 We met at Huber Mennonite at 8 AM and had refreshments, signed in, devotions, prayer and instructions for the day.  We arrived in the neighborhood at about 9 AM but were delayed getting into Kevin Smith’s area about 30 minutes waiting for heavy equipment to unblock the road.  We worked until about 4:30 PM and were cleaned up and heading home by 5:30 PM.

 A wonderful day!

 Lawrence Matthews

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