Last summer will forever be marked by the devastating tornado that struck the lives of northwest Ohio residents. Its path of destruction claimed seven lives, and demolished Lake High School, the Lake Township Administration and Dispatch Center and many area homes and farms. In the end, all that was left to mark the tornado's presence were 10 miles of debris and many shattered lives.
Afterwards, hundreds of volunteers and organizations launched a massive clean-up effort – including a group of Lourdes students and staff members who pitched in to help pick up the pieces.
Coordinator for Lourdes' volunteer group was Campus Minister and Master of Arts in Theology student Laureen Knueven ('09, BA, Theology).
"The thought of getting a group together to help was instant – I was raised to help others who are in need and doing so has always been a part of my life," shares Laureen. "By noon the next morning, I had talked to a friend and we decided to go.
I thought about how Lourdes' values of community, learning, reverence and service play a part in our lives as students and knew I was in a position to invite others to help. So I sent out an invitation and received an amazing response from students, staff and faculty who wanted to participate."
The group spent several days helping clean up the disaster area, mainly removing the large amount of debris that had spread into farm fields and nearby forests.
"Cleaning up after a tornado is surreal," remarks Benjamin Jakeway, Pre-Physical Therapy. "When I first saw the destruction I felt a combination of disbelief, awe and sadness. To see houses ripped apart like that can make a person feel a bit overwhelmed but the Lourdes crew worked hard to make a difference in the clean-up effort. It felt good seeing the reaction of the people we helped."
"It was one thing to see the damage on the news and in pictures but completely different to see it with my own eyes – it was pretty emotional for me," shares Mystel Aldrich, Nursing. "I just kept thinking 'I can't believe I am picking up pieces of people's lives!'
"I have a four year old daughter and it was heart wrenching to be collecting books and toys that were scattered all over. I just can't imagine what those people were going through. On the up side, it was amazing to witness the generous outpouring of love and determination to help this community. It's not something you see often these days and I was honored to be a part of it."
Lourdes' volunteer group also helped out a fellow alumna's family near Delta. "We picked up trees and branches from their lawn and helped with other debris removal on the property," says Laureen. "It meant a lot to be able to directly help someone who belongs to our Lourdes family."