Mainstreet Church Pastor Marty Pennington has been a busy man.
During the week after twin tornados destroyed approximately 100 homes in Lake Township, he counted “upwards of 800 to 1,000 people coming in and out of our church to go out and help.” That includes only members from his church.
“We’ve done a lot of relief ministry and work out and about with the community. A lot of volunteers have come out of our church,” Pastor Pennington said.
Many of the church’s members live within the impacted areas of Millbury and Moline, said Pastor Pennington, including victims that lost homes and their lives.
Killed by the tornados were four members, including Ted Kranz, the father of surviving Lake senior class valedictorian Katelyn Kranz, and three members of the Walters family, including parents Ryan and Mary Walters and their four-year-old son Hayden. Pastor Pennington officiated all three funeral services as Mary and Hayden’s were combined.
Even more volunteers from outside his church have been accessing Mainstreet’s 705 Campus in Walbridge. The church was contacted by the Red Cross and United Way, and the connection led to the campus becoming a primary distribution site for both organizations. It was set up by 14 of the church’s staff members.
“We just set it up from the beginning and that very first night we opened up our building for anybody that had been displaced,” Pastor Pennington said. “First thing Sunday morning, we put out a call to our own people to show up to go out and help people who had been devastated by the storm and it kind of just took off from there.”
At the church’s second campus visible from State Route 795, a two-and-a-half year old building met with the tornado. Pastor Pennington said early estimates indicate $500,000 in damage. A sign along SR 795 was also mangled by the tornado.
“We were fortunate that we didn’t have any structural damage. No part of our building collapsed or anything like that. We just had a lot of exterior damage, roof damage, and windows blown out. We don’t have to rebuild but we have to repair an awful lot,” Pastor Pennington said.
As a result, relief efforts were organized at the church’s older campus on North Main Street in Walbridge. Work teams collected donated items that included food, tools, clothes, and “just about anything that people were donating,” Pastor Pennington said.
The church began updating members through its website, www.mainstreetlife.org, and on Facebook and Twitter as needs became available.
At 10:34 a.m. on the Sunday morning after the tornado struck, the church announced it had begun organizing to meet food needs for volunteers and those impacted by the storm. Working with Food for Thought, the church began to pack lunches at the Walbridge Fire Department No. 1 station. Church services for the day were cancelled.
At 10:40 p.m., the church posted this update on its website, “To the many volunteers who showed up today, thank you! What an overwhelming outpouring of love from our community to so many in need. You helped with clean-up, donated food, clothing, money and more.
“You cooked, helped organize efforts, sorted clothes, answered phones, delivered food and water, picked-up debris and so much more. We wish that we could thank each one of you individually. Your efforts made a difference. (Just so you know, we delivered out nearly 300 meals.)
“Also, thank you to the generous donations of area businesses. Your help made so much more possible than we could have done on our own. Local businesses that donated so abundantly today included Applebees, Gordon Foods, Lee Williams House of Meats, Olive Garden, Home Depot and The Andersons.”
On June 8, the church announced that Oregon’s Eastern Community YMCA was opening its doors to Lake Township residents in need of showers, the pool, or an exercise facility.
On June 10, over 300 volunteers went out again to help with the clean-up effort. The church announced it was in need of donations of ponchos, tarps, bug spray, sun screen, cell phone car chargers, large plastic Rubbermaid type tubs, wrapped snack items, and Gatorade.
Posted on the website was, “Volunteers that have wheel barrels and can transport are encouraged to bring them. We’ve seen this request multiple times.”
The church also began asking for donations of fresh fruit to service volunteers and families in partnership with the Salvation Army.
Another updated list asked for, “garbage bags, rope, work gloves, medium size plastic totes, laundry baskets, dust pans, brooms, plastic silverware, plastic cups, anti-bacterial wipes.”
On a typical day, like June 13, the church sent 100 volunteers to help. The church announced that the Red Cross would be in St. Peter's Church at Cherry and Main in Millbury to do inventory assessments. At St. Peter’s, Mel Ayers of Nagoya Steakhouse was providing hot chicken and roast beef dinners
After a while, mostly all that was asked for was monetary or credit card donations. However, Pastor Pennington said people can continue to volunteer, make donations, or find out how to get help if they have been impacted by the storm at www.mainstreetlife.org.