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‘Neighbors helping out neighbors’ Volunteers from Downers Grove church lending a hand in Woodridge

Tree branches and other debris covered the backyard of a house on Evergreen Lane—a block that sustained some of the most serious damage during Sunday night’s tornado in Woodridge. Moments later, thanks to the work of volunteers from a Downers Grove church, the refuse was gone.

Signs of the tornado’s aftermath remained everywhere.

A Boy Scouts of America trailer lay on its side in the parking lot of nearby St. Scholastica Catholic Church and downed power lines and transformers could be seen behind the houses on Evergreen Lane. The remains of a badly destroyed brick garage with two damaged cars inside offered a stark reminder of the power of a tornado.

A mangled swing set stood in a backyard. Nearby, several plastic tubs containing salvaged personal property were neatly stacked against what remained of the house.

As of Tuesday, the damage assessment was 80% complete and 140 homes have major damage, 21 homes are a complete loss and 300 sustained some type of damage, according to village officials.

The road to recovery for the Woodridge residents whose houses were badly damaged or destroyed will be a long one—a journey that started Tuesday with the help of volunteers willing to lend a hand.

John Jou, pastor of One Six Eight Community Church in Downers Grove, stood in the St. Scholastica parking lot directing volunteers to the houses where they would spend the afternoon cleaning up. The group had dedicated the earlier part of the day to clean up at an apartment complex hit by the tornado.

“Part of the mission statement of our church is participate in the flourishing of our communities. This is how we can participate,” Jou said. “When a disaster comes through and rolls through and people need help, we don’t want to just be a church that just talks the talk, but we want to walk the walk. We want to say, ‘Hey, how can we bless our community? How can we bless people in need.’”

Jou said the decision to assist in Woodridge “came about organically.” Information was posted on social media and emailed to members of the 17-week-old church, many who alerted their friends of the initiative.

“It’s really been lovely to see everyone come together,” said Carl Fisher, who also serves as pastor at the church. “Those that we do know, those that we don’t.”

Fisher stood in the St. Scholastica parking lot next to a folding table covered with fresh fruit, bottled water and bags or chips, much of it donated by families from Woodridge and surrounding communities. A small sandwich board that read “One Six Eight Community Church” sat at the end of the table, notifying volunteers where to meet.

“Right now there are probably about 30 or 40 of us at those two houses helping out,” said Jou, who added that the tornado victims have appreciated the assistance.

“I think it’s been uplifting for them just seeing people helping out people—neighbors helping out neighbors. I think it just warms their spirit and they’re grateful that they don’t have to feel alone.”

“When tragedy strikes, we have to step in not only in word but with our hands and our feet,” Fisher added.

“So honestly, we just kind of put out there that we wanted to come out and serve and help clean up today,” he continued.

Fisher added that many of the tornado victims remain in shock following the tornado that wrecked havoc in their community.

“We just want to come along side and if we can pray for them and help them though that we want to do that as well,” he said.

“There’s always hope but it’s tough to stomach physically and emotionally when you’re living through it,” he said.

Anyone interested in donating supplies to the church’s efforts or helping out is asked to email

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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