June 16, 2024

Strength in helping others

A sign outside Jim and Bobbi Williams' home in Greenfield thanks volunteers for their countless hours of work following the tornado.

In the wake of the devastating tornado that struck last Tuesday afternoon was nothing but destruction. Everyone can see it for themselves as they make their way through town looking to volunteer their help. Yet in the midst of all the decimation, there’s a silver lining shining brightly. That silver lining is the resilience of a small town in the Midwest.

In less than two hours, St. John’s Catholic Church was open for victims to come and get hot food made by the less-affected members of the community. It was less than 24 hours before St. John’s was established as the central distribution center for the town.

Mary Jensen, long-time parishioner of St. John’s, explained how she stepped out of her undamaged house and went to help her daughter clean up debris that had been thrown into her yard.

“As I walked by the church I thought, ‘The church needs to be open.’ So I put a Facebook notice out and people started replying and it grew from there,” Jensen said.

Father Philip Bempong was immediately open to the idea as well, declaring “Do it!” shortly thereafter.

“We started with four waters (pallets) and now look at what we have. It is amazing!,” Bempong said. “We are grateful to God for opening the hearts of men and women who have volunteered, who have come with all kinds of donations to help others.”

The church has accumulated an amazing surplus of supplies, from food to paper items to baby items to hygiene.

Volunteers have been in and out of the church non-stop to keep food moving and the items organized. Jensen estimated the amount of people who have shown up to help to be in the hundreds.

“It’s been tremendous,” she said.

All of the churches in town have stepped up in some way to make the relief effort possible.

Off of church grounds, the strength of the community has been no less impactful. Aside from the astounding amount of skid loaders along the tornado’s path, the amount of people from our community and others is also spectacular.

Twin brothers Paul and Luke Kading are country kids but came into town within the first day to help clean up. Nodaway Valley students and staff were checked in that day for volunteering at Cardinal IG before they were bussed all over town to help clean up.

The newspaper caught up with the Kadings Thursday morning as they prepared to work.

“”It’s good to help them and I’m glad we can do something about it instead of just sitting at home,” Luke said.

As they started on their first clean up project, Paul explained, “As the day (Wednesday) progressed it was just more and more people showing up. The sense of community as everyone pitched in from all over the place, it was incredible.”

Red Oak and Atlantic were a few surrounding schools who didn’t hesitate to come help, and more are surely to come.

Travis Thomas and Mason Betts were here with Atlantic’s wrestling team, coached by former Nodaway Valley coach Tim Duff and Nodaway Valley graduate Jesse McCann.

Thomas said “images don’t do [the damage] justice.” The two were motivated to come here to help because they have family in the area and know many people affected.

Betts said it “feels good” to be able to help.

Red Oak football player Nolan Peren highlighted how everyone was so willing to help whererever needed, even if it wasn’t what they expected.

“We thought we were going to help clean up the brush and everything that’s been thrown around the houses and been destroyed but now we’re moving diapers I guess,” he said.

The team was transporting the overflow of items from place to place so that donations were more manageable.

Jack West, Nodaway Valley/OM’s new co-head football coach, who will also teach this fall in the district, said he’s only been here a couple weeks but is impressed by the community’s young people.

“Especially the high school kids — not just the football players, but I’ve seen kids from every walk of life coming and helping out the last couple of days.”

He was most impressed by how tough every kid had proven themselves to be through their attitude and work ethic.

Businesses and organizations, both locally and from afar, have shown up to offer their help. Truck loads of food and supplies were sent here by Fareway, Hy-Vee, Walmart and Rose Acres Farms.

The Salvation Army, Adair County Cattlemen and local food trucks Soulshine Food Truck and Zipp’s Pizzaria have been staples in the hot food supply.

Local restaurants have remained open, when possible, to provide food and respite to local residents, volunteers and victims.

“I think all of this kind of shows what we’ve already known, that Greenfield is really strong, whether we’re celebrating or grieving,” said Gina School, a representative of Greenfield Chamber Main Street. “We all come together as a town when our neighbors need us. That’s what is special in a small town, as opposed to a city. We all have connections to each other and we jump in and do what we need to do.”