Human suffering took many forms in the wake of the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes, seemingly afflicting those with the fewest resources to address the loss and the trauma. A mother and two children, everything lost, sleeping under a picnic table in the park. A young couple giving custody of their newborn to her grandmother because they were living in their car. A senior woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer facing extensive home repairs.
In the spirit of their vocation, hundreds of our neighborhood St. Vincent de Paul volunteers moved into action, understanding the tornado devastation as opportunity to see the face of Christ in others and for others to see the face of Christ in them. The St. Vincent de Paul volunteers came from the entire region—and even from other Ohio cities—to serve, provide guidance and support, and to pray with the tornado survivors.
These Vincentian volunteers took the front lines for weeks in the area’s Trotwood, Salvation Army, and FEMA Emergency Response Centers, where they provided gas and grocery cards; vouchers for clothing, furniture, and household items; and advice for getting additional assistance. Many survivors just wanted to talk about what happened as they processed the trauma of the tornado and the uncertainty of the future.
One volunteer recalls the difference $5 made, a turning point for a family who had fallen between the cracks. Months later, the mother wrote to him, describing her gratitude: “The teamwork at SVdP, helping with furniture and household items and clothing for my children, was the most spiritual sight I’ve ever seen.” One Vincentian recalls, “We met in parking lots, motel lobbies, and in their homes as we prayed with them, cried with them, and supported them.” Another recalls hand holding and shared prayers. And she hopes these precious souls know they still remain prayerfully in her heart.
St. Vincent de Paul in Dayton remains at the forefront of the Memorial Day tornadoes relief and recovery efforts, and the support provided by the community –in volunteerism, financial gifts, and collaborative agency partnerships – has made that possible. We thank you for the difference you made in the lives of many Daytonians throughout this emergency!