June 01, 2017
Oak Grove continues their recovery and rebuilding process after a tornado hit the heart of the town on March 6. When viewing the destruction one can’t help but comment on how remarkable it was that there was no loss of life from the storm. It certainly could have gone differently.
There was a recital at the school the night the tornado came to town in Oak Grove. Fortunately the recital ended a little early, and a heavy wind encouraged the large crowd to leave the crowded parking to return to their homes unusually early. Because it was not quite 8:30, Rev. Travis Reames, pastor at Oak Grove UMC, decided to spend the night at his home in Kansas City. Just minutes later he had to pull over at a gas station on US 50, along with many other cars seeking shelter from the tornado.
“The people in Oak Grove had just enough time to get home,” he said.
Seven families in Oak Grove UMC, which has an average worship attendance of about 60, had significant damage to their homes. Three of them have moved out of the area, two are in the midst of extensive repairs, and the other two had damage that was more manageable.
By the morning after the tornado, disaster response was in full swing. A church near Interstate 70 with a large parking lot and multi-purpose room was designated as the reception center for people seeking assistance and for volunteer staging.
Just blocks off the tornado’s path, Oak Grove UMC didn’t lose power, and the only damage the facility had was a broken flag pole. By 9:00 a.m. Oak Grove UMC was collecting donated items, and was at the ready to provide meals, but large scale disaster response teams from outside of the area provided the bulk of the early response that was needed.
Some people who were renting their homes lost everything. The church office manager took in one such family and housed them for two weeks.
The long-term recovery committee held an event on May 6-7 in which they accepted intakes from people in need of assistance to determine where there are still gaps. Reames had a table there to help people connect to support groups.
Reames has been at the church since April of 2016. He’s been retired 10 years, but has been serving part-time appointments since then.
“Along with the huge disaster response effort from the Kansas City region, the community was anxious to reach out and be helpful,” Reames said. “I’m also proud of the work of Missy and Ivan on behalf of the Missouri Conference Disaster Response team. They were central to the immediate response effort.”
At one point the church fellowship hall was rather full of donated items, and the church supported the creation of a Disaster Recovery Center dedicated to getting the donated items into the hands of other agencies so the space could be used for local church events.