Days before Christmas, Dayton nonprofit helps 400th family displaced by tornadoes

When the last piece of furniture was moved on Saturday, Living City Project had helped over 400 families displaced by the Memorial Day tornadoes into their new homes.

LCP has activated over 12,000 volunteers since the tornadoes tore through the Miami Valley on May 27. The organization serves on the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Board and, like other Dayton-based and national organizations, has been instrumental in organizing cleanups, helping distribute furniture to hundreds of families and simply making sure tornado victims are not forgotten as 2019 comes to a close.

“What really spoke out to me is they haven’t stopped living,” said Joel Burton, LCP team leader. “They’re going to continue to live, continue to try and pursue normalcy and joy as much as then can. To see them getting ready to decorate that tree tonight, is good. That’s more hope than we expect to see. There’s neighborhoods right now that aren’t putting up Christmas lights.”

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As about 45 volunteers helped move furniture Saturday, they took breaks from the heavy lifting to listen to home owners tell their story and if the family wished, say a prayer with arms wrapped around one another.

“I decided to do this because people need help,” said Barbara Robertson, volunteer with LCP. “It’s a blessing to be able to help them. God’s been good to us, and we just got to share his love, that’s all there is to it. You do what needs to be done.”

For several months after the tornadoes first hit, LCP was active Monday through Friday organizing volunteers efforts, Burton said. However, it’s taken the teamwork of countless groups, churches and nonprofit organizations to pull off the mass volunteerism.

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“If today meant anything, it’s a reminder that the community still remembers those that have been impacted,” said Caleb Ingram, LCP executive director. “There was an inventory backup, and we thought we might not get this out till January or February. But we reached out to a number of churches primarily. Some churches donated $20,000 collectively so that we could get this delivery out before Christmas. I think it’s just a reminder to every individual that we’ve gone to over the last six months, that we know that they’re there. We remember that they’re there, and we love them.”

St. Vincent de Paul Dayton has acted as a home base for many of the tornado recovery operations. Saturday, LCP donated all the moving trucks and furniture to be delivered.

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“St. Vincent de Paul has also put in funds of their own to make this happen,” Ingram said. “Even the churches that donated, the donations went to St. Vincent so they could bulk order these couches. So the amount of money is a fraction of what it would cost if we went to the store and bought a couch. So funds came in and they would order 100 couches at a time.”

As people impacted by the tornadoes navigate the holiday season under difficult circumstances, Ingram asks them to know that organizations like LCP are not going to quit.

“There’s still more to do, still more to give,” Burton said. “We’re nowhere near done. Every moment like this carries us into the next.”

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