Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Brethren Disaster Ministries assesses needs following Nappanee tornado.

Staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services visited Nappanee, Ind., this weekend to assess damage following a tornado that hit the community on Oct. 18. Judy Bezon, associate director of Children’s Disaster Services, and Zach Wolgemuth, associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, toured the community, met with the mayor, and contacted local and district Church of the Brethren leaders. Nappanee is a center for the Brethren, Mennonite, and Amish populations in the midwest.

Six or seven Brethren families lost their homes in the Category 3 tornado, Wolgemuth said. Most of the families who lost homes are from Nappanee Church of the Brethren and from Union Center Church of the Brethren, also located in Nappanee. Both churches are in Northern Indiana District.

In a report to the General Board meeting on Oct. 22, the staff said that a grant is being made from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund to support the work of Northern Indiana District in response to the storm. The grant will give an initial $5,000 to the effort.

The storm damaged some 200 to 250 homes and businesses, and destroyed between 100 to 150 homes, Wolgemuth reported. A two-mile swath in the town was destroyed, and the tornado was on the ground for a total of 20 miles. Just a few people suffered minor injuries, however, and there were no deaths.

Wolgemuth noted the massive community response to local officials’ calls for help with clean up. The officials announced on Saturday that Sunday, Oct. 21, would be a community clean up day. Some 5,000 people from the area responded to the announcement, and traffic to the high school--a meeting point for volunteers--was backed up for six miles, Wolgemuth said.

Wolgemuth and Bezon met with Nappanee mayor Larry Thompson, who already had been in contact with a Church of the Brethren member who is a trained Children’s Disaster Services volunteer. The mayor expressed respect for Brethren disaster work, Wolgemuth said, and asked many questions about how the Brethren could help the community.

Information from Nappanee about its tornado recovery efforts and how to help that local effort is available at For more information about Brethren Disaster Ministries, go to

Source: 10/24/2007 Newsline Special Report

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