Washington, Illinois tornado victims thankful for volunteers

November 28, 2013 (WASHINGTON, Ill.)

Some people in Washington lost everything - their homes, cars, clothes, and belongings. But on this Thanksgiving Day, they still have hope and they some even have a new outlook on life.

The sun brings a new day, and new hope this Thanksgiving.

The spirit of the season is alive in Washington, where volunteers work this holiday.

"It's just another day when there is a disaster this size and you have the capability and the knowledge to help out," said volunteer Troy Gries. "I just feel right to be here."

Homes are gone, but Our Savior Lutheran Church is mostly intact. Sixty people were in Sunday service when the tornado hit. Thursday, it's a place of togetherness and healing.

"We are alive and the generosity and good wishes of everybody, our friends, family and people we don't even know has made us so thankful," said Washington resident Kelly Stephen.

The Stephen family lost everything, but say they gained a new appreciation for mankind. Many volunteers here are from the Chicago area.

"We didn't lose our home, the least we can do is come and help people who have lost everything, maybe give them a little bit of holiday spirit," Deb Smith said.

At Washington's Crossroads United Methodist Church, where they normally serve 300 people this holiday, there was enough food for 1,000.

And 200 miles south, in New Minden, Vera Miller's home was destroyed, but she, too, relies on her faith in God.

"He's still there, and that's the biggest thing to be thankful for," she said.

In Kokomo, Indiana, there is more destruction. Fifty homes ruined but they, too, gather this Thanksgiving. Back in Washington, hope is the message, not just on Thanksgiving, but days to come.

"To know that people are here and are gonna be here for the long-term, not just for a week. To be here in the long term to be here for the recovery," said Tim Hetzner, Lutheran Church Charities.

Hetzner says the important part is making sure that there are still volunteers and people willing to help a month, 6 months, even a year from now.

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