Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 12, 2014

Reaching out in recovery: Volunteers play major role in tornado cleanup effort

Unable to get out of her house to do yard work, Peggy Patch was beyond thrilled earlier this week to find out a group of teens had removed trash and debris that had long covered her lawn after a tornado swept through on Nov. 17.

Patch, 71, receives assisted care at her house on Wheeler Street, where, until 2005, she had run a ceramics business for 25 years. The tornado ripped shingles from her roof while destroying her front porch, and Patch became concerned when she recently received a letter from the city asking her to clean up the yard.

For Patch, a group of 22 volunteers from Ward Evangelical Presbyterian Church out of Northville, Mich., saved the day.

“It’s amazing and I’m so appreciative,” Patch said. “I don’t have any family left. If I had to get somebody to help clean things up, I would have to pay them.”

The volunteer effort was orchestrated by Bridges Outreach Chief Professional Officer Travis Taflinger, who received a call from Ward Church after the tornado made national news. Many of the church’s members spent their spring break this week taking on clean-up projects in the areas hit hardest by the tornado — Wheeler Street and the Cedar Crest neighborhood.

As the group of volunteers played music on Monday while raking up leaves and trash, it was easy to see they were where they wanted to be during spring break.

“This is exactly why we’re here — to do what needs to be done,” Ward Church volunteer Dan Jones said. “A lot of these people have had some hard times. We have some freedom to do that right now, so we’re pretty pumped to be doing it.”

The cleanup was organized as part of a larger Long Term Recovery Team effort that began after the tornado to help those in need. The team consists entirely of volunteers from Bridges Outreach, Kokomo Urban Outreach, a number of local churches, social service groups, the United Way and individuals from the community.

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