And their assistance hasn’t stopped.
First Baptist Church of Metropolis, located at 307 Massac Creek Rd., is not only accepting items needed by victims of the storm but the victims themselves as the church is an official American Red Cross shelter site.
As officials assessed the damage and victims began dealing with reality, the grounds of First Baptist were organized chaos as volunteers of all ages brought in and organized donations received Sunday afternoon into Monday morning in order to prepare themselves for those they know will be coming this week.
The preparations began around 5:30 Sunday night when a call for blankets in Brookport was heard on the scanner. Jackie Lange and other volunteers went to the town but were turned away due to the damage. “We had put that out on Facebook and within a matter of 90 minutes we had lined up all the way to the stop sign, people dropping off all kinds of supplies — things we hadn’t even asked for,” said Lange, the church’s local missions director.
Within two hours, most of the foyer was filled with clothing, blankets, toiletries, diapers, paper towels, phone chargers, bandages, food, towels and washcloths.
“We had cancelled church and no one had made an organized event to come and do this. The church members all came and started immediately organizing it,” Lange said.
By the time she returned from helping a church member whose home was destroyed in the tornado, “it was all completely organized and they were ready to go to work.”
By noon Monday, the response of donations was so great, officials asked for a 24-hour hold so they could see what displaced victims will need.
“It was God; it was awesome,” she said of the response and its quickness. “The big thing is we’ve had such an overwhelming response, this is going to go beyond those 50 people we know of who need assistance. We’re going to be able to meet needs for months because of what everyone has done. I believe the Lord has used this for more than just today. I believe He has equipped, again, the church together — many churches coming together, working together to do this — and He’s giving us the ability to have resources to help other organizations and churches locally that are doing these same things. I think this is going to be something that is much more than right now because of all the donations we’ve received.”
At press time, the top donation request was for cleaning supplies and large plastic totes so victims store their items.
Three people stayed overnight at the church Sunday. Monday morning, around 10 families who had lost everything came to receive assistance from Red Cross, food and donations.
“At this point we haven’t had a huge turnout because the residents haven’t been allowed to go back into their homes so they haven’t been able to assess what their needs are. This morning has been organizing, getting things ready to distribute when that time comes,” Lange said. “The big thing is to get people here to see what their needs are so we can meet those needs.”
The Red Cross is set up at First Baptist Church of Metropolis to aid victims with their food, medication, health and shelter needs. First Baptist Church of Metropolis is set up for donations. Portable showers have been set up at Mt. Sterling Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Unionville, which is also providing hot meals for victims and workers.
While several monetary donations have been given to the church, Lange said they are trying to direct those funds to the Little Egypt network of the Red Cross. Donations can be mailed to American Red Cross Little Egypt Network, 556 N. Airport Rd., Murphysboro, IL 62966 or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; checks should be memoed Brookport Tornado. “However, we will take them,” Lange said. “We are doing a fund here at the church as a last resort.”
Food donations are coming in from a number of local and Paducah restaurants and businesses to feed victims, workers and volunteers. The site is offering breakfast, lunch and dinner for shelter victims. Lunch and dinner is available for disaster relief workers. If large groups need food, Lange asked the church be contacted — 524-8681 — so preparations can be made. Lange noted that food cannot be directly taken into Brookport and is being funneled in through Red Cross. “We are coordinating that here and we’re preparing those meals for workers and taking them there.”
On that note, food is not being collected as it cannot be handed out at this point. “We may toward the end of the week,” she said.
Hope Unlimited is assisting First Baptist by taking the overflow of clothing donations. “They are not asking for furniture items,” Lange said. “If someone has furniture, they can contact Hope Unlimited and they can see if they have room.”
First Baptist Church of Metropolis is part of the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief and is also an official Red Cross shelter. The Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief was scheduled to arrive in Massac County Tuesday to begin assisting with cleanup, staying several days as needed. Lange noted other teams are here and ready to assist. Individuals wanting to help with cleanup are asked to sign up at Unity School beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
As a national organization, the Red Cross is providing shelter, hope and comfort across five states following Sunday’s tornadoes and severe weather. In all, 12 Red Cross shelters are open in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Workers are also providing help to people whose homes were affected in Kentucky and Michigan. Claudia Blackman is one of those volunteers, who is also a volunteer with the Americorps National Preparedness and Response Corps.
At First Baptist, Blackman is joined by some 30 other Red Cross members who are delivering food, assisting with shelter and meeting with clients primarily to get addresses and contact numbers. To also assist clients, the Red Cross can work with them to provide lost medication. Crisis counselors are also available. The medical reserve corps associated with Southern Seven Health Department is also on hand to assist the Red Cross.
The Red Cross had assisted three people Sunday night and then two families with a total of seven people by noon Monday.
“That’s very typical — the first night you find somebody to stay with and then it becomes a little overwhelming for everybody,” she said. “The way Red Cross works, we wait to give further assistance until after we’ve been able go in and assess the damage of individual homes. Because of the type of damage in tornadoes, we can’t get right in because of what Emergency Management and first responders are doing; we don’t want to get in the way. As soon as we’re allowed to get in, we assess the damage, we match the disaster-caused needs with the clients and then we make arrangements to meet with them and give them further assistance. We’re hopeful that stage could start (Tuesday).”
Blackman has been a Red Cross volunteer for 50 years. “I think people need to keep in mind that everybody wants to help right now, but this is going to take a long time. When you look at Katrina, people are still recovering. That’s the reality of it,” she said.