Members of the national organization Southern Baptist Disaster Relief help remove trees and debris from a backyard on Rushton Drive Wednesday June 5, 2019. RICHARD WILSON/STAFF

Relief group help in Beavercreek ‘nothing short of amazing’

Teams from the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization are in Beavercreek until Friday helping residents remove damaged trees on their properties.

Dozens of Southern Baptist volunteers have been sleeping on air mattresses and cots at the Beavercreek Baptist Church on Dayton-Xenia Road while working during the day in various neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, the team cut down trees and removed debris in the backyard of a home on Rushton Drive, a neighborhood where many homes were destroyed or sustained major damages during the Memorial Day tornadoes.

READ MORE: Beavercreek maps tornado’s 14-square-mile ‘path of destruction’

Homeowner Chris Zappanti said he, his wife and two teenage children were home in bed when the storm hit. His son narrowly escaped a tree that came crashing down into his bedroom.

“We’re stunned that nobody was killed back here,” Zappanti said. “These houses, a lot of them don’t have basements. You get lucky. We’re still on the right side of the dirt so that’s all that matters at the end of the day.”

Volunteer Jeff Free from Kentucky took time off work to respond with the Southern Baptist crew. Free and a team of about five volunteers worked to cut down and remove 100-year-old oak trees in Zappanti’s backyard.

“You just go down the road here and you see homes that are completely destroyed. The roofs are gone. The walls are gone. And there was people there,” said Free, a Southern Baptist volunteer since 1986. “It really does surprise me that the death toll’s not higher.”

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Beavercreek Baptist Church Pastor John Heading said the disaster relief group works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The group offers a variety of free services for people affected by disasters, including mobile units for meal preparation, day care and rebuilding homes.

Up to 50 Southern Baptist volunteers have stayed at the Beavercreek church since the storm. The relief organization will check on the recovery progress here in the Miami Valley, Heading said, and might return during the rebuilding phase.

“We have to be invited by the county EMA to do work that needs to be done,” Heading said.

For Zappanti, the volunteer efforts since the storm have been “nothing short of amazing.”

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“There are a lot of neighbors back here who will never be able to afford to get their trees down. Some have gotten $30,000-$40,000 quotes already,” he said. “For a group like this to come through, who knows what they’re doing and to do it without charging the residents, is just incredible.”

Greene County has published a list of resources, including architects and engineers, to help residents and business owners in the rebuilding process.

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