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Compassion shows in KS

BY SUSAN KIM | HOISINGTON, KS | April 26, 2001

"A good part of the town was destroyed."

—Linda Reed Brown

Compassion was shining along with the sun in the tornado-ravaged town of Hoisington, KS Wednesday.

As residents continued to salvage what belongings they could, they were assisted by volunteers and neighbors from the faith-based disaster response


Some 200 homes in the small town were destroyed when the deadly F4 tornado struck April 21. Another 85 were severely damaged and about 200 more

sustained moderate to minor damage.

Some 45 volunteers, pastors, and students from Adventist Community Services (ACS) were on hand to help tornado survivors.

On Tuesday morning, ACS opened a donated goods warehouse to distribute non-perishable food items, toiletries, canned goods, rakes, gloves, cleaning

supplies, and other items storm survivors might need.

"As residents salvage their belongings and decide what they need, they can come to the donated goods warehouse where we'll give them the materials they

need to get back on their feet," said John Treolo, communication and ACS director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kansas and Nebraska.

ACS is operating the warehouse in cooperation with the state emergency management agency.

More than two dozen students from Kansas-based Enterprise Adventist Academy combed the streets of the town distributing comfort kits of toiletry items

to people in the affected areas.

Farmers found ready help when Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) coordinated student volunteers to remove debris from fields. MDS volunteers are also

replacing damages roofs before future rainstorms cause further damage. MDS had placed about 100 volunteers in the community by Wednesday.

"Repair work is expected to continue for another week when MDS will reassess the needs of the community and take a second look at the length and depth

of our involvement in this recovery," said Ted Houser, MDS spokesperson.

A volunteer Disaster Child Care (DCC) team traveled to the town, which is located about 90 miles southwest of Topeka, to offer childcare for families

affected by the tornado. DCC is administered by Church of the Brethren and traveled to Hoisington under agreement with the American Red Cross.

Among denominational families hit hard by the April 21 tornado was the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). At least 15 homes of Disciples were either

destroyed or damaged. Week of Compassion, a giving program coordinated by the Disciples, sent two grants totaling $5,500 to the First Christian Church

of Hoisington and the nearby First Christian Church of Great Bend. The funds will go toward needs in those congregations and in the greater community.

Week of Compassion is also in discussion with Church World Service about forming a long-term interfaith recovery group.

Nearly a quarter of the town was leveled by the twister, which killed one person and injured 28 others. Hoisington, 100 miles west of Wichita, also lost a

dozen businesses.

"A good part of the town is gone," Linda Reed Brown, interim director of domestic disaster response for CWS. CWS representatives are on site assessing


The damaged area is about six blocks wide and a mile long.

Even the tornado veterans were shocked when the twister touched down. Resident Linda Flanders, who has lived through three tornadoes, said there was

no warning. "This one was different because the news reports were talking about heavy rain and hail. But we never got it. The tornado was just here and

gone. We usually at least get hail. It wasn't that the warning system wasn't working -- it's that there was no time."

The town's hospital and high school were badly damaged, and the Hoisington Catholic Church served as a

temporary hospital. An emergency command center was set up in city hall.

The tornado touched down on prom night but fortunately the prom was being held in the Knights of Columbus

hall and students were still at the dance when the twister hit. "This is certainly a prom they'll remember," said


Flanders, who is a member of the First United Methodist Church, said her church was serving as an insurance

center in which survivors could meet with insurance representatives. Survivors were being housed in the city hall


Response team members from the Kansas West United Methodist Conference were on the scene hours after the tornado hit.

Local pastors were on site at city hall to offer support for survivors. "There is a tremendous amount of damage," said Flanders, but added that the town is

responding with a united effort. "Everybody knows everybody here."

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