I grew up in Washington, Illinois. It's a small town of about 10,000 people, and until November 17, 2013 not many people had heard of it. It was around 11am that Sunday morning when an EF4 tornado tore through the center of my hometown, destroying around 1,000 homes and causing one fatality. My parents, sister, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and niece were all safe (the tornado missed my parent's house by less than a mile), but many others were not as fortunate.
What was amazing to me, especially in a culture that today is overly cynical and seems dependent on the federal government to meet their every need, was the speed in which those in and around my hometown rallied together to take care of their neighbors. Facebook pages popped up within minutes (or so it seemed) as people rushed to both get and supply information about what was going on. Offers from strangers willing to provide shelter, clothing, food, medicine, transportation, etc. were communicated almost immediately, to the point that people were being told to wait until relief efforts could be organized; search and rescue operations were the priority, along with making sure that downed power lines, ruptured gas pipes, and broken water mains were secured and that property was protected.
In the midst of the devastation though were these offers from local businesses, churches, and others that I've seen on Facebook in the last few days (and apologies if I've missed any, this isn't meant to be an all-inclusive list):
- Peoria Home Depot open overnight providing water, garbage bags, and help with cleanup efforts
- Montgomery's Cafe offering free meals
- A hotel room has been donated by David
- Riverview Senior Living in East Peoria offering 2 guest apartments
- Crossroads church offering meals
- Walmart in Washington set up a shelter and handed out free water, blankets, pillows, baby formula, etc.
- Duracell and Verizon dispatched mobile charging stations to help people charge their cell phones etc and contact family and friends
- Multiple donations sites set up in surrounding areas
- Countryside Banquet serving hot lunch
- Glad Tidings Assembly of God offering chili meal provided by Alexander's Steakhouse
- Titan Fitness is open for hot showers. Towels and toiletries available as well
- Proctor & Gamble's "Loads of Hope" on the way
- Cross Fit Extreme Warrior has hot showers available
- Schnuck's grocery stores offered the use of their coolers for perishable food
- Red Cross shelters set up at Crossroads United Methodist Church, Evangelical Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church, Avanti's Dome, and Community Heath Rehab Building.
- Highview Church of God distributing relief supplies
- Uftring Automall offering free tire repairs and waving disposal fees if new tires need to be purchased
- Central Illinois Herpetological Society offering to take in pet reptiles and amphibians temporarily, providing all necessary care
- Kroger in Washington has clean up supplies and hygiene items donated by Proctor & Gamble at no charge
- First Baptist Church offering free lunch
- Five Points recreation center offering hot showers and cell phone charging
- HOI Technologies helping with data recovery from damaged computers and hard drives
And this: Chicago Bears to wear Washington logo on shirts
I posted this thought on Facebook on Monday, but it bears repeating:
"God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other."-Spencer W. Kimball
How grateful I am for the countless people who have and will be the answer to prayers and the means of serving and meeting the needs of those affected by this disaster.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?