George Rooks 0000-00-00 00:00:00
‘Something Needs to be Done’ Ruth Ann and I were at our home in Bethel watching the updated weather reports on TV when the tornado touched down on March 2. The eye of the storm was just two miles from us. When I later drove over and saw the terrible damage, it brought back some bad memories. My mother’s farm in Newtonsville, another small Ohio town, was hit by a tornado on April 24, 1968. I was 35 then, working not far from her farm. I had seen the storm clouds and hurried over there. They had already taken Mom to the hospital. She had seen the storm coming outside her window but wasn’t able to protect herself. She had woken up in the yard. Her cast-iron double-bowl sink pinned her down. She broke her ribs, shoulder, arm and collar bone. Parts of the floor punctured her thigh. God bless her. My mother, Martha, was a hardworking, resilient woman. But she was severely injured. She nearly didn’t make it through the second night. She somehow survived, regained her strength and lived almost another three decades. I guess the good Lord was not ready for her. In my family, tornados are not just something you hear about on TV or read about in the newspaper. Back in 1974, Ruth Ann’s brother, a farmer in Indiana, saw his home and farm smashed to pieces by a tornado. Yes, we’re familiar with this kind of stuff. So after the tornado in March our district governor, John Tolos, called us at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and said something needs to be done to help these folks. On Monday morning we drove with Tolos through Moscow and Tate Township to get a firsthand look at the damage and to talk to people to see what they needed. Three people had died. Nearly 200 homes, barns and other buildings were damaged or destroyed. A lot of these poor folks had no insurance. I’m 79 now and retired after working as a state park ranger. I have plenty of time to volunteer and serve as president of the Bethel Lions. Jim Rees and Bill Bick, also of the Bethel Lions Club, and other club members also got busy real fast. Rees and his son even took six horses from a man with a damaged horse farm and agreed to look after them for a while. We received a $10,000 Emergency grant from LCIF. Lions in Ohio sent us $5,000. We passed out $100 gift cards from Kroger, Wal-mart and Home Depot. You’d be surprised how that could lift someone’s spirits. “All right!” said a man who had lost his home. “Now I can get a wheelbarrow.” I know it sounds kind of corny but within a few days I saw neighbors and crews from Home Depot and Lowe’s helping families repair their homes. The response from the community was overwhelming. The area hit by the tornado is not that big, but Ruth Ann and I have put more than 600 miles on our truck checking in with people. Bethel Lions tell us who needs help and off we go. I know what happened was a tragedy for many people. I don’t want this to sound wrong. But for the Bethel Lions, what came after the tornado departed was a blessing. We got to do our job as Lions and help others.
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