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Published: Thursday, June 06, 2019 @ 8:24 AM
DAYTON — A steady stream of cars pulled into the North Dixie Drive-In on Wednesday afternoon to collect donated food, water and other items needed in the aftermath of widespread damage from tornadoes late Memorial Day evening.
The Foodbank and Cox Media Group Ohio partnered with the movie theater to aid in tornado relief efforts and gave away food, bottled water, clothes and household items to those in need.
Cloudy skies gave way to partial sunshine and stories of hope as cars entered the drive-in looking to receive help for their families and friends.
Anna Slaght had her three kids in tow. The Old North Dayton resident said her house suffered serious damage, and her cousin also was suffering after the tornado wrecked her home.
She called Wednesday’s event a “huge blessing,” and said her family feels a sense of hope for the area’s recovery.
“Everyone of the volunteers are so nice, polite and helpful,” she said. “I feel like the community and all of us can rebuild. We can make it even better than it was.”
Cox Media Group Ohio is parent company for WHIO-TV and radio, and the Dayton Daily News.
News Center 7 anchors James Brown and Cheryl McHenry and Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs loaded cars with items and listened to heartbreaking stories from residents still recovering from a night that included 15 tornadoes, ranging in strength from EF0 to EF4, in Auglaize, Darke, Greene, Mercer, Miami and Montgomery counties.
William Burklow’s family is also from the Old North Dayton area, and his parents live in Beavercreek in the Grange Hall area.
“My parents’ house was damaged, and we hadn’t had power until yesterday and our neighborhood is trashed,” Burklow told the News Center 7 personalities as they loaded his car.
Candace McCowan, there to get items for two families, said the devastation has been a challenge for those in need, but she was trying to keep a smile on her face since Wednesday was her birthday.
“I was determined to have some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, and then I heard you guys were here,” she said. “I am so glad to see all of the help being provided.”
Constance Dunson was moved by the effort at the North Dixie and hope that others would show up to get help.
“People have been really hurt and are in need, so I hope they will be able to find a way to get this help,” she said.
CMGO Market Vice President and General Manager Rob Rohr said it was a mission for the company to get involved with the relief effort.
“So our first mission was to promote all of the amazing work being done by organizations like the Red Cross, The Foodbank, the United Way, and literally dozens of businesses, churches and other community organizations and give our audience links to join in and lend support. Then we quickly asked ourselves – what’s missing and how can we help fill that gap?”
Several members of area churches and other non-profits showed up during the day to collect items for those in need, and as more cars started to show up, Ryan Levin, vice-president and co-owner of the North Dixie Drive-In, said volunteers would stay past 1 p.m.
“It really is good to be able to help people, and we can stay to make sure people can get what they need,” Levin said.
He was grateful for the efforts of the many organizations that donated supplies and for people like the “Hoodie Guy,” Josh Foster, who came from Hamilton with clothes to donate.
He runs Booth 513 at the Treasure Aisles flea market in Monroe and said the efforts by people to help those in need inspired him to make the trip Wednesday.
“We were able to give out about 400 items today,” Foster said, as his kids Skylar, Elijah and Lily delivered clothing to cars that pulled by his booth. “A lot of people are telling us that they lost everything. It’s tragic, and everybody needs to do their part to help.”
Bottled water and non-perishable food item donations can be dropped off at The Foodbank warehouse at 56 Armor Place in Dayton from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. until June 7.
Lee Lauren Truesdale, The Foodbank’s development director, said Wednesday’s event was the first of six scheduled mobile distributions.
A similar event will happen today in Riverside and Friday in Brookville. Other communities will be served next week.
“We are here to serve anybody in need whether you were hit by the tornado or not,” she said.
Truesdale said anything not used goes back to The Foodbank’s warehouse and will be ready for those who need it.
“We push out about 14 million pounds of food every year, and that does not include disaster relief,” she said, adding that the tornado response has been spectacular. “I’ve been doing fundraising for some time now, and I’ve never seen such a response - it give me goosebumps.”
The total number of people injured either during the tornadoes or during cleanup efforts in the following days has reached 420 people, according to officials at Premier Health and Kettering Health Network.