Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

March 6, 2012

The Crossing students help clear tornado-ravaged town

ELKHART — Students and staff with the Crossing Educational Center of Elkhart put their personal plans aside this past weekend to lend some much-needed aid to the tornado-ravaged town of Marysville in southern Indiana.

According to Elkhart Crossing Executive Director Rob Staley, 14 students and five staff members from the Elkhart Crossing campus took part in the two-day disaster relief effort.

“The Crossing believes in serving, and so when we see that there are people in need, whether it be in this local community or any place in the state, we want to serve them,” Staley said of why he decided to set up the volunteer trip. “Our kids were really excited about taking the trip, so we sent out a tweet and asked if anybody wanted to go, and our kids fired back, and we rallied a crowd in probably less than 10 hours. We had no idea where we were going to stay, what we were going to do, where we were going to work, but we just went.”

Fueled by their desire to serve, the hastily gathered group quickly packed their gear, hopped into a Crossing van at 5:30 a.m. Sunday and settled in for the four-hour journey to Henryville — the group’s original destination.

“We got there at about 11:30 a.m., but we couldn’t get through, so they sent us over to Marysville,” Staley said. “When we arrived in Marysville, there was a Red Cross tent set up, and they pointed us toward a bunch of people who needed help, and we got right to work. Then (Monday) we hooked up with a volunteer group called the Sheep Dogs, who are a bunch of retired Marines that go out and volunteer their time, and worked with them for most of the day.”

A majority of the group’s time during the relief trip was spent clearing downed trees with chainsaws and clearing brush to allow residents to gain access to their tornado-battered homes and properties.

“When we got there, the devastation was just unimaginable,” Staley said. “There’s just nothing left. We spent the entire time just running chainsaws and pulling brush. And I’m not talking just a few houses down. I mean everything’s wiped off the ground. So the kids were working like bees the whole time, just pulling brush and cutting down trees as fast as they could.”

Cory Crisler, a senior at the Elkhart Crossing, was among the 14 students to make the trip to Marysville over the weekend.

“It looked like a war zone,” Crisler said of seeing Marysville for the first time Sunday afternoon. “Peoples’ houses were cut in half, and then right across the road there’d be a house that was still standing. It was just hard to imagine so much destruction. I’ll never forget it.”

The students and staff worked non-stop from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, then slept overnight at a local lodge before rising bright and early at 7 a.m. Monday to pick up where they left off.

“We were up at 7 a.m., had a brief family time together, ate breakfast and then took off for the field at about 8 a.m. and worked until 1 p.m.,” Staley said. “After that, we got something to eat, and then we packed up our gear and headed home.”

While in Marysville, Staley said he was continually impressed by the positive attitudes and sense of community shown by the town’s residents, even in the face of such overwhelming destruction.

“They are in shock, obviously, although like in every tragic situation, they’re rallying together, and there was even a little humor evident from time to time,” Staley said. “But it’s pretty sad at the same time, because they’re all now in the stage of picking through everything, and you’d just see these individuals picking through the wreckage that used to be their homes, just trying to find what valuables they can. And for many of them, there’s just simply nothing left.”

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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