The Missouri city of Eldon suffered extensive damage after an EF1 tornado went through the community on Wednesday night, May 22. As stated in an article by Fox News, "The twister started just before 11 p.m. southwest of Eldon and tracked for 13 miles. The storm packed winds of 104 miles-per-hour. The Eldon Mayor said that the tornado damaged countless homes in the city of 4,900 residents, but only one man in a truck that was flipped by the twister was hurt."
Many of the homes and apartments in the tornado path incurred extensive damage. Power outages lasted from 10 hours to 12 hours in untouched areas and up to five days in the areas directly affected by the tornado.
The Eldon First Christian Church has been ministering in Eldon since 1893 (126 years old). Since the tornado, the church is ministering in a different way. Responding to the devastation in this city and surrounding areas. Pastor Bill Foglesong as well as other pastors began acting at daylight and started the process of checking on their church buildings and congregation members. Eldon First Christian Church had no visible damage. It is not possible to mention all the churches and local organizations that activated which included the city of Eldon emergency management. Trees were pulled off of houses, fallen trees were cut and stacked to clear the way to the home, and volunteer groups came with large equipment and cut and move trees and debris from the roads and homes to assist with those who could return to their home. Since vehicles were unable to get into the neighborhoods or vehicles were damaged from the tornado and falling power lines and trees, non-perishable food and water was taken out to those who were unable to get to the shelter.
The Eldon Community Center main shelter was at the community center which was running on a generator opened immediately for those displaced or those who lost their home. Since they had power many of people came down to the center for food, coffee, water and a place to rest. Leaders of the Eldon First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who were unaffected, came to help by collecting donations for food, water, and supplies which began flowing into the Shelter. The two grocery stores in Eldon (one has still not been able to open due to extensive damage.) sent their cold food, perishables, meats, and many other items to feed the people since it could no longer be sold due to the power outage. Volunteers in the Eldon First Christian congregation began cooking meals, receiving inventory, organizing meals from the donated food, and getting volunteers to serve the people for the two weeks the shelter was in full operation. In the first couple of days, 80 meals were served at each breakfast, lunch and dinner. As the power slowly came on the need for so many meals began to reduce. Heather Brandt from Eldon First Christian and her team of volunteers organized all the meals to be served at the shelter from the myriad of donations and organized donors. Heather also called on many other volunteers from all Eldon churches and individuals associated with service groups like, Serve Eldon and the Eldon Lions Club, to help with cooking and serving so many people. At times there more volunteers than could serve and many organizations took a turn in providing a breakfast, lunch or dinner. Many organizations sent fruit, loaves of bread, frozen food, and desserts. The First Christian Church members worked many long hours into the night and early mornings to provide for the Shelter residents hot meals.
The Eldon Ministerial Alliance also gathered, prayed and provided community organization to address the destruction in the community. Tornado funds were received and are continuing to support the community in many different ways. The Eldon churches are united in caring for the Eldon folks and meeting the needs in the recovery and restoration to make this community as whole as possible.
The Local Lions club members also activated on the first day and many were active in working at the Shelter. Many Lions spent the first 72 hours providing local relief until national organizations were able to set up stations in Eldon to provide their own specialized assistance.
Salvation Army assisted with meals and cared for the shelter folks and the Red Cross worked in putting up the shelter structure with cots, blankets as well as to determine the immediate needs of the shelter folks including emergency medications.
One of the Lions members, Dr. Kathy Vetter-Bisges, is a veterinarian in the community Eldon. Dr. Kathy and her staff came to assess the needs of the pets affected by the storm. The dogs were as terrified as their owners. Dr. Kathy offered to keep any pet, free of charge, at her facilities and care for them until the owners were able to return to their homes.
Dr. Paul Koch called Pastor Bill to check on the church and congregation on Thursday the first day. Dr. Koch then called Week of Compassion and told them to call the church to see what help was needed. The Week of Compassion leader, Vy Nguyen, called the same day and worked out what they could do and what money was needed. Some houses from Eldon FCC congregation members were a complete loss or had damage from the tornado and needed assistance immediately. Our members came to their aid while others came to the shelter to offer their help. In good Disciple tradition, when it was known help was needed, they went to the locations to offer services.
The Disciples can be proud of the Week of Compassion relief work which immediately responded to the tornado disaster in Eldon. While there was much more damage in Jefferson City and Community Christian Church located there, it was a comfort that even our congregation members were sent help through the solidarity grants. There will be a long time of recovery in Eldon, but Eldon First Christian Church (Disciple of Christ) responded to the disaster and served where they were needed. Many thanks to the Disciple leadership and the Week of Compassion for their support during our time of crisis.
Going forward our congregation at Eldon FCC is running a temporary tornado recovery resource center for as long as it is needed. “From our doorsteps to the ends of the earth” is a great motto to live by in our church community.
Submitted by, Lisa Foglesong
Member of Eldon First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)