Luckies Barn and Grill employee Casey Parker was in the wrong place at the right time — or maybe the right place at the wrong time.
Parker, from North Toledo, and her fiancé, Bill Cousino, were at the “Beach House” — the nickname for the home of Russell and Tammy Beach on Main Street in Millbury when tornados struck June 5.
“It was interesting, that’s for sure. The house we were at, my fiancé plays softball with them, and fortunately we were there with them. They had the softball team over for a cookout and a party. It was about six people that lost their cars, and the house that we were in was pretty bad. We were very, very lucky, that’s for sure,” Parker said.
“Thank God we were there. Everybody’s houses were gone, you know, and our house was kind of like the safe house because it was still standing. The guys and girls and everybody helped out. In 45 minutes the ambulance and fire department was there they were pulling people out of the rubble. It was definitely scary,” Parker continued. “Everybody knew to go to the Beach House that evening. He had a generator that was running.”
Photos near the “Beach House” after the tornado struck showed a pink bicycle stuck in the top of the house. But the home had hosted a flurry of activity the night before.
“You know what’s wonderful about the people I play softball with. Nobody wants the publicity. I don’t want it, but the fact that it’s so awkward that we were there because you just didn’t know anything about it for 45 minutes. It’s something that anybody would have done if they had been in the same predicament, you know. Everybody helped,” Parker said.
“What’s wonderful, too, is the rest of the neighbors — the first thing they did is pull out a map and drew a map of where everybody’s house should have been — let’s make sure these people are helped, let’s make sure these people are helped. That was neat after the fact that something devastating like that happened.”
The next morning, Parker called her employers, Geoff and Melissa Kies, owners of Luckies on Navarre Avenue in Oregon. A Millbury church had told them that Fire Station No. 2 on Ayers Road needed food, so she called the Kies asking if they would bring sustenance for first responders, volunteers and victims. The Kies wasted no time in complying.
Melissa Kies gives Parker credit for efforts in the hours after the tornado struck.
“Casey was taking care of everybody, cleaning them up, getting the blood off of them, like glass, and they were going to try and find anybody they could. Oh, she was pretty traumatized,” Kies said.
“She’s working but she still can’t talk about it today. She and her husband helped save some people. They were running out and finding people and bringing them back to this house and helping them get food and stuff in the next couple hours. I can only imagine. I feel so overwhelmed. I even drove down like I-280 where it all happened. I saw it on the news, and I stayed up all night watching it on the news,” Kies continued.
Five times Sunday morning the Kies brought hot food to the fire station.
“I’m still amazed,” Melissa Kies said. “Families had just lost their homes and had nowhere to go.”
More help coming
Of course, the Kies were not the only restaurant owners who did so — there were numerous others — from a local pizza delivery to a Japanese restaurant that brought food to St. Peter’s Church in Millbury. Too many to mention in so many words.
The Subway on Woodville Road in the Woodbury Plaza escaped damage, but it did lose electricity and had to close Sunday. So co-owner Shawn Bucher gathered his food and took everything to the fire station.
“It’s just part of being out here. You know, it’s a good neighborhood to belong to. We’ve been out here eight years and it’s such a small town. I mean, you see kids growing up and everything. We felt good about doing it, too,” Bucher said.
Bucher also donated food to first responders, volunteers, and victims who arrived at his restaurant.
His partner, Shawna Puredes, said a woman showed up asking how many subs she could buy for $50. Once the co-owners determined she was a volunteer who arrived from out of town, they provided some of the food to her at no cost.
It wasn’t just restaurants that donated.
Janice Gahler arrived at the home of her son Michael Eppard, and his wife Deborah and their three children, on Main Street in Millbury on Sunday. The Gahlers spent the previous evening in their basement while the tornadoes struck, and Gahler says early estimates show about $15,000 damage to her son’s house. However, the Eppards live just five houses from the heaviest destruction.
Gahler said she could not help but notice the destruction around her.
“It’s so weird. The one house was completely levelled. All that was there was the floor, and in the middle of it was the toilet. How can that happen? Everything was gone,” Gahler said.
When Gahler arrived, she and her daughter-in-law found clothes everywhere, so they started picking them up and Gahler took them to Duds and Suds on Navarre Avenue. Duds and Suds owners agreed to allow her to wash the clothes at no cost, Gahler said.
“I would still be doing laundry, so I thought, ‘Heck, I’m going to stop and ask. It wouldn’t hurt to ask, you know, and not a bit of hesitation. They were just wonderful. They were so nice about it. They didn’t hesitate and told me to come back if I have more,” Gahler said.
She said Duds and Suds provided coins, and she signed receipts.