This event was part of a Cox effort that raised nearly $400,000 for the FoodBank, the Dayton Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Dayton Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund. Money came from readers, viewers and listeners. The James M. Cox Foundation kicked in $120,000.
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The seemingly never-ending line of grannies and grandpas with canes or walkers, mothers pushing strollers and other Dayton-area residents in need started two hours before the giveaway’s start time, Emily Broughton, Cox Ohio communications manager, told me.
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It ended two hours after it was scheduled to end.
Four people passed out from the heat while they waited for apples, cookies, frozen meat, toilet paper, bananas, pasta, orange juice, produce and other items. The most fragile sat in their cars as volunteers collected food for them.
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Emily told me more than 700 households were registered before the volunteers registering people had to leave.
The FoodBank emptied three trucks of food on top of what was supplied by three local churches set to help.
I, like the other Cox volunteers, worked as quickly as I could to distribute the supplies. We had bell peppers and zucchini at our station.
The worst of the Memorial Day tornadoes, an E-F4 monster, hit parts of Trotwood, Harrison Twp. and north Dayton.
And it hit those communities hard.
More than 2,200 structures in Montgomery County alone were either destroyed or severely damaged in the Memorial Day tornadoes, according to a report the county recently released.
Most of those damaged structures were within a few miles of the Salem Mall parking lot where we worked.
According to the report, 1,144 Trotwood structures — mainly homes — were left unusable. The tornado destroyed or caused major damage to 774 residential and commercial structures in Harrison Twp.
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But there was a need long before the tornadoes hit.
More than 93,200 of the 120,040 people struggling with food insecurity that the Foodbank served before the tornadoes live in Montgomery County, the nonprofit’s statistics say.
More than 25 percent of Trotwood resident live in poverty, according to a United States Census estimate. The median household income is $32,977.
The median household income for the state of Ohio is $52,407, and the poverty rate is 14 percent.
It is hard to say who in the crowd was in need due to the tornadoes or simply in need.
At the end of the day, what does it matter?
A lot of people were in need before the tornadoes hit. Even more are in need now.
Somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 of those people waited in the sweltering heat in the old Salem Mall parking lot last week.