Clark County comes together to clean up tornado damage

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

The Springfield community and beyond turned out Saturday morning to support southeastern Clark County residents whose properties were damaged by a tornado that ripped through the area on Wednesday morning.

Despite debris strewn about, roofs and siding ripped apart, trees torn from roots and branches blown about and some homes, powerlines downed and properties leveled, those affected saw the good as volunteers pitched in to aid the victims amid a misty rain and chilly temperatures.

“The past three days have been a beautiful distraction from it all,” said Stephanie Kohl, whose Newlove Road property in Harmony Township saw the home undisturbed but at least 33 trees uprooted and other damage. She stepped up as effort coordinator as her and husband Casey’s yard became a headquarters for relief efforts as donations of food, water and other goods from local businesses were set up and volunteers came to help with cleanup.

Stephanie estimated residents for about a quarter-mile stretch of Newlove Road suffered the brunt of the damage.

“The goal was to make sure everybody was safe and what necessities were needed. Maybe more importantly, so many of us didn’t know each other and it took this tragedy to bring families together and people have been coming in droves to help,” Kohl said fighting back tears.

Care packages went out to residents and a cookout with fresh, hot food was being prepared. Residents didn’t get power back until Friday evening.

On Newlove Road, Chuck and Kelly Eckart have spent their time picking up from where a pole barn was ripped apart, damaging their house and spreading debris across their back yard.

They were grateful for dumpsters that appeared and volunteers in earth movers donating time to pick up the large objects.

“I’m amazed by this. It shows there’s a lot of good left in the world,” Chuck Eckart said

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Like her neighbors, Kelly Eckart said things can be fixed or repaired but nobody being hurt was the silver lining. The Eckarts’ neighbors’ home was destroyed, but they were OK and staying elsewhere.

Several Northeastern High students and church groups helped with cleanup, including Addie Wolf, Dakota Gulling and Sophia White, who also helped prepare food at Trinity Missionary Church on Friday.

Jon and Rebekah Stewart have experienced a nightmare followed by a dream of support after losing almost everything when their house on Mitchell Road in Springfield Township was leveled on Wednesday morning. People came from Fairborn, Cincinnati and as far as Chicago to support the family during Saturday morning cleanup.

Even after all they’d lost, after making sure his family was safe, Jon Stewart’s thoughts were for his neighbors.

“My main goal was to get my stuff out of their backyards. I feel bad,” he said.

Jon Stewart was working out on a treadmill when the weather alert sounded and admits he didn’t take it seriously enough, but Rebekah did. Soon, they were rounding up their kids and saw part of the roof ripped off over their upstairs and Rebekah grabbed 3-year-old Caroline and laid on top of her as the devastation continued.

They didn’t have to look for support. People came from Springfield City School District, where Jon is employed; from Clark-Shawnee Schools, where he coaches football and his stepson attends; from Fairborn City Schools, where Rebekah works; and several other places.

“I’ve told everybody who has asked what a good support system this has been,” Jon said.

Fairborn superintendent Gene Lolli said as soon as he saw the video of the damage, he wanted to help by pitching wood from the house into piles.

“I was like, ‘wow, we need to do something.’ We have a great staff that likes to help out and to see this, this is what Americans do when things happen to good people,” Lolli said.