Washington IL church services support tornado survivors

November 24, 2013 (WASHINGTON, Ill.)

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The cold weather did not help tornado recovery efforts as the cleanup continues one week after the deadly tornado outbreak in Washington, Ill.

Sunday morning volunteers came together in worship for the first time since last week's devastating tornado.

''There are no words to explain it, we are just blessed to be here. It wasn't going to be that day that he didn't save Washington and surrounding communities. God saved us,'' said Karren Morris, who lost her home during the tornado.

Therapy dogs were brought into the church to provide comfort and a sense of normalcy.

''We know that when people pet animals and in the presence of an animal their body relaxes, their blood pressure goes down, their heart rate slows. It's just a calming effect,'' said Peoria Humane Society's Kitty Yanko.

''what we find with the children is they just want to be kids. They want to go back to knowing life as they always knew it. And so the animals just give them that sense of normalcy.'' Yanko said.

Aid continues to flood in from across the state.

A group from Minooka arrived with four school buses and two trailers full of goods that had been collected since Wednesday.

''I'm overwhelmed. I have been on the verge of tears for the last four days because it makes me feel so good that everybody has pulled together and helped out,'' said Minooka resident Joan Coop.

As the spiritual healing begins, hundreds of people are now homeless and continue to sift through debris. The work comes to a standstill after dark.

Volunteers included 75 high school wrestlers from Oak Park/River Forest and Lombard's Montini Catholic High School.

''It feels good giving back to people. Especially knowing that when I go home, I have a house and a family and some of these people don't have that now,'' said Bryce Scott, a student at Oak Park River Forest High School.

''Were just going through these fields and it's crazy. There are people's letters, pictures, and all kinds of stuff. We found little kids trophies, we found blankets, and we found stuffed animals. It's intense,'' Israel Martinez, a coach at Montini Catholic High School.

One group included a storm chaser who was one of the first on the scene last week, drove down from Wauconda, with a U-Haul and an 18-foot trailer of supplies.

''I know it will help but it's nothing, it's not going to bring someone's house back, but you know it's something. I had to do something,'' said volunteer Bonnie Deboer.

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