#DaytonStrong: ‘We’ll rise out of these ashes and be better for it’

In a big small town that’s been beaten down repeatedly by floods, blizzards, recessions, addiction — and now tornadoes — Daytonians prove time and again that ingenuity and hard work can overcome anything.

Dayton’s disasters also have been its most shining and defining moments, said Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton History.

“We’ve always had the sense that we can do that, we can fix that, we can change that, we can create a solution to that problem,” Kress said.

In less than a week since 14 tornadoes pounded the Miami Valley on Memorial Day, the community has once again shown how being #DaytonStrong means giving 100 percent for others under the direst of circumstances.

RELATED: 14 Memorial Day tornadoes confirmed

HOW TO GET HELP:Emergency shelter locations for those impacted by storms

“It’s been a trying few days for Dayton … KKK rally then the tornadoes,” said Scott Johnson on Facebook this week. “But for all those Dayton haters out there, ya’ll missing out. Seeing this city unify and come together has been inspiring, instilling a hopefulness that I haven’t felt in quiet some time.”

The examples of this strength and togetherness are already too numerous to count.

Four landscapers laid off this week took their tools and talents to Old North Dayton, clearing downed trees.

Neighbors in Trotwood with huge holes in their roofs told the driver of a church van they were all good, but pointed out several houses to check on because the older residents had more pressing needs.

STORIES OF SURVIVAL: Tornado victims describe what happened to them and what they are doing next

WATCH: Drone video of tornado damage in Dayton

A day earlier, a group of 60 or so possibly German Baptists descended on the same Trotwood subdivision to swiftly clear many downed trees and debris.

“I don’t know where they came from, but they were fast,” said Jerome Ware, who had a giant transformer down in his backyard and part of the second story of his home missing.

And Harrison Twp. residents Nicole and James Adkins mobilized their volunteers at With God's Grace Mobile Food Pantry — which has served more than 600 needy families per week since 2015 — despite their own home being mostly destroyed on Maplegrove Avenue.

“The community has really come together,” James Adkins said.

‘Heart and soul of this community’

Each part of the Miami Valley that suffered direct hits from tornadoes is different and neighborhoods have been supporting each other in ways as unique as they are.

The youth baseball community stepped up to quickly reorganize the planned USSSA Select 30 tournament scheduled to be held at the Action Sports Center this weekend with other teams offering up their fields after the complex was destroyed. Players from local teams were on site Thursday starting the clean-up process.

In Trotwood the Home Depot on Salem Avenue became a hub of emergency response with mobile laundry services, insurance company mobile headquarters and neighbors simply showing up with donations.

TROTWOOD: 59 homes destroyed, almost 500 damaged

A group grilling free food and passing out supplies in the parking lot wasn’t affiliated with any particular church or organization. They were just locals who banded together.

And in Northridge, where residents identify more so by school district than the township they live in, the schools stepped in to lead.

“The schools kind of are the heart and soul of this community,” Northridge Superintendent Dave Jackson said. “It was really not even a matter of thinking for us.”

School employees were on the ground within 20 to 30 minutes of an EF4 tornado striking the North Dixie Drive area.

RELATED: School tornado damage could affect start dates for fall

When the school sent out a one-call alert about the district being closed for the last three days of the semester, Jackson included his personal cell phone number and told families to reach out with their needs.

Every day since Memorial Day, 50 to 60 school district staff members have canvassed and distributed food, water and other supplies. Although the Red Cross and other agencies have been present in the neighborhood as well, Jackson said the residents trust their school family.

“People know us. They’re comfortable telling us their feelings, their emotions, crying with us,” Jackson said. “We always say that we’re the Northridge family. In times like this, we see it.”

Nicole Adkins and her husband said the support from the school district has been amazing, but they worry their neighborhood might not recover from this blow.

TALES FROM THE STORMS: ‘Our whole house is ruined’

“I don’t even know if we should stay,” Nicole Adkins said. She worries that some homeowners will abandon badly damaged properties and the blight will sit for years.

Jackson hopes that doesn’t happen. The school district is reaching out to organizations that might be able to help those without insurance.

“I choose to believe that we’ll rise out of these ashes and be better for it in the end,” he said.

Remember the promise you made (in the basement)

In the aftermath of the 1913 Great Dayton Flood, community leaders set out to make sure that such a disaster would never happen again.

The fundraising campaign that paid for a series of dams that are still considered the gold standard in flood protection bore the slogan, “Remember the promise you made in the attic.” It referred to the vows to rebuild that Daytonians made while huddled in the upper reaches of their homes as flood waters rose.

“Not only did they rebuild, they raised the money to make sure it never happened again,” Kress said.

RELATED: Dayton forever changed by the Great Flood of 1913

Going back further in history, Kress pointed to the cholera epidemic of the 1830s.

When infected individuals from Cincinnati came to Dayton on a canal boat, the city experienced, “a moment of fear and then coming together to help,” he said.

Hospitals were built to quarantine the infected and Daytonians drew on the latest science, putting protocols in place to stop the spread of cholera.

“Once they gained a greater understanding of what had occurred, their answer was a call for clean water and keeping your outhouses far enough away from your well,” Kress said.

More recently Dayton was scarred by the opioid epidemic over the past three years. Instead of accepting the label of “overdose capital,” the community came together in a new way to create the Community Overdose Action Team, which led efforts that cut overdose deaths in half from 2017 to 2018.

RELATED: Hamilton sends one of its best resources to Dayton: water

“Daytonians have and have had just a can-do attitude,” Kress said. “It’s the reason that we led the country in patents per capita.”

Tornadoes are an act of God that likely won’t be stopped with an ingenious invention — although no one thought humans could fly until some Daytonians proved them wrong — but lessons can be learned from any disaster.

‘Figure out how you can get it done’

Xenia residents are well-known for their resilience in the face of the deadly 1974 tornado that destroyed much of their city. And Xenia was hit again in 2000 by an EF4 tornado that killed one person and injured more than 100.

Dick Strous is one of many Xenia residents who have stories of rebuilding more than once and wisdom to pass on to the other Dayton-area communities now in the early stages of that process.

“It’s probably starting to hit people: What do we do now?” Strous said.

The key is to not get discouraged from the outset because it’s a long process, he said. “You can’t be defeated in the beginning before you ever get started.”

PHOTOS: Xenia tornado 2000: A look back

Strous co-owned a business that was destroyed in 1974 and couldn’t be rebuilt. In 2000 he was on the board of trustees of Faith Community United Methodist Church, which suffered heavy damage to its roof, gym and education wing.

The church had just undergone a $2 million renovation the year before the tornado, which Strous said ended up being a stroke of luck. The board had reevaluated its insurance policy during that remodel so the damage was fully covered.

Xenia’s past experience with natural disasters made Strous and others more aware of the need for good insurance, he said.

One year and another $2 million later, the church was rebuilt.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “You just have to have a lot of patience.”

It can be both exhilarating and overwhelming in the first few days to receive an outpouring of help from communities near and far, Strous said.

“Sadly enough it’s one of the times that draws people together,” he said. “It’s too bad that you have to wait for some sort of disaster.”

The key to getting things done and not letting the influx of helpers get in the way is to designate strong leaders who step up and give directions, Strous said. He was that leader for the church project. That person needs to have a good relationship with the insurance company and contractors, as well as any volunteers.

TORNADO RELIEF: How you can help

“We had to start right away to get our heads together … figure out how you can get it done,” he said. “They’re going to encounter a lot of things that are going to be discouraging.”

A slow recovery, for example, can be hard for morale. In some ways the community will never feel the same, Strous said, but as soon as a few things start looking back to normal, spirits will improve.

“The minute you can start seeing improvements in the conditions, when you can start seeing buildings put back together and homes put back together … they’ll start to feel more hopeful about it,” he said.



The Dayton Foundation has established the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund.

The fund was established to “allow the foundation to quickly distribute disaster relief funds to charitable organizations that currently are working to help provide food, clothing and shelter for our friends and neighbors who are affected by these storms,” a note on the Dayton Foundation website reads.

Contributions can be mailed to the Dayton Foundation, 40 N. Main St., Suite 500, Dayton, OH 45423.

List “Greater Dayton Disaster Relief” on the check.


To help those affected by severe weather, The Foodbank in Dayton is asking for bottled water and nonperishable food item donations, as well as volunteers to help sort food. The Foodbank asks that the nonperishable food items be easy to open.

Donations can be dropped off at 56 Armor Place in Dayton from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday this week.


The American Red Cross said the best and quickest way to assist is to donate money since it takes time and money to sort, store and distribute donated items.

To make a $10 donation, visit RedCross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS or text the word RedCROSS to 90999.


Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley invites people to donate through its website, cssmv.org spokesman Mike Lehner said.

Contributing online “allows us the flexibility to purchase the food. That’s the best way for them to help us help people.”


The Community Blood Center has a critical need for type O-Positive blood, Mark Pompillo, a spokesman for the center said.

Officials ask that people with O-type blood donate at the center, 349 S. Main St. in Dayton.

Donors can also visit www.DonorTime.com or call 1-800-388-GIVE to schedule the best time to donate.

All blood types are being sought but O-positive is particularly needed.

While so many good meaning people are finding ways to help, there is always a risk in the aftermath of a disaster for scammers to take advantage of the community’s generosity.

Attorney General Dave Yost issued a warning about the potential for scam charities this week.

When it comes to making charitable donations, donors should research charities and ask the right questions, Yost said. Donors can follow these steps to ensure their gifts are used as intended:

  • Visit the attorney general's Research Charities webpage to see if charities have complied with registration requirements, to connect with charity watchdog organizations and learn what others say about the group. Media articles and other postings can also provide useful details about groups, board members and key employees.
  • View 990 forms, which most tax-exempt groups must file with the Internal Revenue Service. These forms describe where organizations get their funding and how they spend it.
  • Support familiar, established organizations or, if considering a donation to an unfamiliar group, check its website first. Does the information match what you received when you were asked to contribute? Do the group's programs and services make sense?
  • Talk with friends and family about unfamiliar solicitations. Have they heard of the group? Do they know of anyone who has been assisted by it?

Ohioans who suspect unfair sales practices or misuse of charitable resources should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.



In Dayton Heart Mercantile, 438 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District, is taking donations.

In Huber Heights a donation trailer has been set up at the intersection of Bushclover Drive and Blackford Way in the Carriage Trails community. They are accepting clothing, baby products, food, water and bedding to be distributed to local shelters.

In Trotwood, at Corinthian Baptist Church, 700 South James H. McGee Blvd, which is one of the American Red Cross emergency shelters, they are asking for donations. Items that are needed include: bottled water, work gloves, baby products, personal hygiene supplies, nonperishable food items, safety glasses, laundry detergent, pillows, etc.

In Brookville, Ridge Church on Brookville Phillipsburg Road is asking for Band Aids, safety glasses, chainsaw blades, trash bags, tarps, fruits and vegetables, bottled water, portion cups with lids, flashlights and batteries, bug spray, contact solution, buckets, work gloves, sunscreen and body wipes.

The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 1000 N. Keowee St. in Dayton, is taking water bottle donations. Please call the front desk at (937) 528-5100 before arriving.

The Dayton Dragons are accepting nonperishable food items at home games through June 2. The items will be donated to The Foodbank. The Dragons will also conduct a "pass the bucket" at each game during the home stand which will be donated to the American Red Cross, Dayton Chapter.

Forest Ridge Baptist Church, 6890 Union Schoolhouse Road, is a drop-off point for donations of bottled water. Leave the water on the front sidewalk, near the front door. It will be delivered to Riverside, Huber Heights and Beavercreek.

Twist Cupcakery, 25 South St. Clair St. in Dayton, is collecting items to benefit Trotwood. Items needed include toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, baby diapers and wipes, soap, deodorant, wash clothes and items to make sandwiches that can be distributed.


The Greene in Beavercreek is a permanent drop off site for The Foodbank and is taking bottled water and nonperishables for disaster relief. Items can be dropped at the security office 24-hours a day located at 4452 Buckeye Lane.

About the Author