Even though their own homes and lives had been torn apart by the Memorial Day tornadoes, many Dayton residents worked to not only heal themselves but their neighbors as well.
They hauled water to the thirsty. They fixed cars for strangers. They washed clothes for neighbors. They did everything they could to help others get their lives back together.
Nearly seven months after the Memorial Day tornadoes devastated the region, readers of the Dayton Daily News were asked for nominations of good deeds that were done when the community was at a low point at times in 2019. Readers submitted the names and stories of several people who pushed through tragedy in their own lives and went out into the community to help others in ways big and small.
Within an hour after 16 tornadoes ripped through the region on Memorial Day, Northridge Superintendent Dave Jackson jumped into action.
The strongest tornado was an EF4 that ravaged the communities of Brookville, Trotwood, Harrison Twp., Northridge, Old North Dayton and Riverside.
“He was out there checking on the school and going around checking houses with a flashlight, making sure people were alright,” said Northridge resident Mike Mescher.
The next day, Jackson got a list of every student in the Northridge school district and gathered a group of teachers to go check on students they could verify addresses for.
In September Jackson told our reporter Jeremy Kelley that he was proud what his community had done to not only recover from the tornadoes but to also open a new school building.
“I can’t say enough about how the community has come together in exceptionally difficult circumstances and just rallied around one another,” he said then. “I keep saying we’re like the phoenix rising from the ashes — literal ashes. I could feel that at the grand opening, people just walking in, just astounded at what this (facility) is.”
Many churches came to the aid of people who needed help the most.
“It all comes back to faith, hope and community. There is a resolve within people in our community,” said Pastor Ryan Riddell of Shelter Church in Kettering.
Riddell brought members of his congregation to homes torn apart by the tornadoes.
First, Riddell said he was hoping someone would ask the church to help, hoping those in need would find him.
But when he was driving through Trotwood, he saw people at a loss.
“We just started knocking on doors, asking people what they needed,” Riddell said. “I think a lot of people were wondering what these white people were doing in their neighborhood, but we eventually gained the trust of one family and then they introduced us to others who needed help.”
Riddell patched roofs, cleared yards and did whatever else families needed. One of the people Riddell was introduced to was Robin Marshall.
About 40 people, including children, helped to clear debris from Marshall’s yard.
“I am truly blessed for Pastor Riddell and his members for doing an amazing job for me and my family,” Marshall said.
Riddell and Marshall kept in touch. About two weeks after clearing her yard, someone from the church called to check in with her family.
“I think Robin had a lot of hope, she was praying a lot,” Riddell said, “and it was cool to be a part of that answer.”
Riddell said that seeing the outpouring of support after the tornadoes gave him hope.
“I think that the community coming together after that helped cross a racial divide that was there before,” Riddell said. “Dayton Strong means a community that comes together to help each other out.”
Mike and Joanna Ivory were camping near Celina when the tornadoes hit.
“We didn’t realize how lucky we were to get out until much later,” Mike Ivory said.
Ivory said he and his wife waited out the storms with his son in Piqua. Their home, camp site and catering business, Christy’s Catering in Huber Heights, were untouched.
“We were so lucky to get out of this unscathed and we wanted to pay it forward,” Ivory said. “And our expertise is food, so that is how we thought we’d show our support.”
The Ivorys held two community meals, one in Old North Dayton and one in Northridge. Ivory said they waited until out-of-town groups who came in to help immediately after the tornadoes left.
“We knew people would be sick of hot dogs, so we made them a nice homemade meal,” Ivory said.
With the help of Mike and Joanna’s families, the couple served nearly 500 meals between the two days. People nearby drove up or walked to get the food. They even had a couple volunteers take 10 meals at a time and drive around Northridge neighborhoods, looking for people who may have been hungry.
“People were so appreciative of a home cooked meal,” Ivory said. “A lot of people didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from.”
Ivory said he wore a smile for days after serving the meals because he felt he truly helped people in his community.
“We all have our own peaks and valleys,” Ivory said, “but the strong can climb back to the top. Dayton Strong means not just being strong for yourself, but for your community.”
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