Twinkies: A sweet spot in tornado recovery

Meredith Flynn —  November 26, 2013
Disaster Relief volunteer Dave Weger from Sullivan, Ill., clears debris from a backyard in Washington.

Disaster Relief volunteer Dave Weger from Sullivan, Ill., clears debris from a backyard in Washington.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

In Washington, Ill., Disaster Relief chaplains were struggling to know exactly how to minister to residents digging their homes out of the devastation left by an EF-4 tornado Nov. 17.

Until someone thought of Twinkies.

“By faith we sent a team of chaplains to walk the streets and try to engage people in conversations and prayer,” Illinois Disaster Relief coordinator Rex Alexander wrote in an e-mail update. “They quickly found that homeowners were not really in the mood to talk because they were busy with their work and very cold.”

But the chaplains broke the ice with a surprising treat, Alexander added.

“They first offered water and were usually turned down. Then they followed up with the question, ‘Would you like a Twinkie?’ Repeatedly the homeowners replied with, ‘Twinkies! You really have Twinkies!’”

Washington, which had been closed for security reasons, opened Nov. 23 to volunteer agencies like Disaster Relief. Braving daytime temperatures in the 20’s, chainsaw teams worked there and in East Peoria over the weekend. A childcare team also served at the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) set up by the Red Cross. The volunteers minded kids while their parents signed up for recovery assistance.

A feeding team at Woodland Baptist in Peoria continued to prepare 1,700 meals a day for storm victims and responders.

Disaster Relief also staffed a table at the MARC, where they took orders for jobs over the next several days. The areas that sustained the heaviest damage were closed again Monday and Tuesday for debris removal.

Alexander said Disaster Relief is currently planning for an active response in the area through Dec. 7. If the work slows, teams could be told to stand down. “Right now, we still think there’s going to be quite a bit of work in Washington and even the outlying areas for the next two weeks,” he said.

Additional volunteers are welcome to join with the teams currently on the schedule. Contact Rex Alexander at (217) 391-3134 or RexAlexander@IBSA.org.

Disaster Relief volunteers and local churches also responded in other parts of the state affected by severe weather in mid-November. For more on the recovery efforts in Brookport and other areas, read the new issue of the Illinois Baptist, online here.

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Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.