Brookville closes emergency ops center, thanks those who helped after tornado

Students took part in the cleanup throughout the city of Brookville. CONTRIBUTED

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Students took part in the cleanup throughout the city of Brookville. CONTRIBUTED

Brookville closed its Emergency Management Center on Sunday as city officials offered thanks to residents and complete strangers who helped after last week’s tornado.

Brookville opened the Emergency Management Center on May 28, just hours after the May 27 EF-4 tornado hit.

Residents and volunteers from local communities started cleaning up as soon as the day broke the morning after. The volunteers had skills and equipment to get jobs done throughout the city quickly, and removed trees, moved residents out of houses, raked, swept and delivered food.

“Our Brookville teachers, students, churches, businesses, clubs and city staff were helping in teams of 20-plus people,” Police Chief Doug Jerome said. “It was a team effort.”

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One particular resident who stood out to the chief had his truck heavily damaged when a tree fell on it. Despite the damage and appearance of the Ford truck, it was able to run, and he continued to help his neighbors.

So many people responded that Jerome said they asked some groups to go to other heavily affected areas instead because Brookville had enough helping hands.

The chief received a call from Montgomery County Common Pleas Court officials, who asked if they could send inmates in their Secure Transitional Offender Program to help clean up. The inmates in STOP, along with lower classified inmates from the Montgomery County Jail, helped relief efforts.

Groups delivered food to the victims, volunteers and first responders through the city.

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Police Major Tom Simon credited support from other communities’ school districts. Sports teams that volunteered included Dixie, Valley View and Tri-County, but Simon said there was a whole lot more from Preble and Montgomery counties.

Jerome said most trees and brush were gone by Wednesday night because of the volunteers and Brookville Rental, which sent equipment to move anything they could, for free, to help with the relief efforts. The city credits other volunteers for their use of heavy machinery for free.

A Farmersville tree company drove through Brookville and just stopped to help with tree removal, Simon said.

One of Brookville’s firehouses was the established reception center for donation drop-offs, which came by the truck load. Old Fire Station 1 had to be opened and cleaned out to be used as another reception center.

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Truckloads of supplies that came in included water, clothes, food, hygiene products and medical supplies. Brookville officials told donors to take them to other hard-hit cities and townships where the need was greater.

Local law enforcement agencies and fire departments donated to the relief efforts, Simon said.

Officials from both the fire and police departments credited the city’s HyperReach program to give updates to their citizens. HyperReach is a program residents can sign up to get email or text alerts about city issues.

“The entire week has been emotional, and I’ve witnessed more love and kindness than you could even imagine,” said Kaelie Copley, Brookville resident. “I’m so proud to be a part of this community, this family, who will pick anyone up when they have fallen and stand by their side until they’re ready to stand on their own again.”

Copley’s husband, Dustin, was one of the men who helped a local woman find her brother’s ashes.

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Both Simon and Jerome said the help was overwhelming and thanked city staff for their efforts.

“I grew up in Brookville, and seeing the community come together was just simply amazing, and the support we received was absolutely amazing,” Simon said.

The city asked those who wish to volunteer or donate to contact the Volunteer Reception Center at 937-512-5700.

Anyone in the city who needs relief supplies this week can pick them up at the old fire station on Mulberry Street across from the post office from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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