Tak­ing care of our own

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS - By LAURE CLE­MONS

On April 27, 2011, tor­na­does stormed through Chero­kee County like a tantrum throw­ing child.

The blocks of a new El­lisville Fire Hall were knocked over by a fu­ri­ous fist. Church steeples were ripped off and dropped in vestibules. Barns fell to the ground un­der a sucker punch. Houses were dis­man­tled by the flail­ing arms of the twister’s tem­per.

In all of this ma­te­rial de­struc­tion there re­mained liv­ing, breath­ing hu­man be­ings. Whether they were kneel­ing in a church base­ment or in their own bath­tub, the men, women and chil­dren of Chero­kee County lived through the night. That in it­self is quite a story.

But there is an­other story that I am afraid is not get­ting told. It is the story of what I wit­nessed in the days fol­low­ing the storm, a story that I don’t think would be told in one of those big ol’ cities like New York, Chicago, or Atlanta.

It is the story of how in Chero­kee County, we are tak­ing care of our own.

It is the story of a fam­ily whose home was oblit­er­ated, leav­ing noth­ing but them be­hind. In an­other town this fam­ily might be liv­ing in a ho­tel right now. Not here.

In­stead, a friend of a friend told the fam­ily to move into their house in Cen­tre that had been on the mar­ket for sale.

No ap­pli­ca­tions, no ques­tions, no per­mits. Just move in.

We are tak­ing care of our own.

It is the story of a group of teenagers who woke up to no elec­tric­ity and a week out of school. In an­other town these kids might be hook­ing up and hang­ing out any­where adult su­per­vi­sion was lack­ing. Not here.

In­stead, the teens I met were busy work­ing at the Goshen Com­mand Cen­ter on Hwy. 9, tap­ing to­gether card­board boxes to be filled with canned goods de­liv­ered to Goshen res­i­dents who were lit­er­ally sitting on the front porch of noth­ing.

No vol­un­teer hours logged, no recog­ni­tion for their ser­vice, and no time to talk to a re­porter. They just showed up and went to work.

We are tak­ing care of our own.

It is the story of Frank and Dar­rell and loaves and fishes.

You see, Frank and Dar­rell are just two guys who live in Chero­kee County who woke up af­ter the storm and said to each other, “What can we do to help?”

It didn’t take long for them to fig­ure out the an­swer to that ques­tion.

They had two big grills, the day off of work, and 300 ham­burger pat­ties. If they could just find a place to set up shop, they would have them- selves a com­mu­nity cook­out, feed­ing any­one who wanted to stop by.

Frank and Dar­rell fig­ured they could at least pro­vide a good lunch for some­one with­out elec­tric­ity, a few of the emer­gency re­sponse per­son­nel, or even other vol­un­teers in the com­mu­nity.

The First United Methodist Church in Cen­tre had a shady spot right off of Main Street, and they didn’t mind let­ting Frank and Dar­rell set up for the day.

Af­ter all, just how far can 300 ham­burger pat­ties go?

This is where the loaves and fishes part comes in.

Frank and Dar­rell hadn’t been set up very long when a car pulled up, some­one got out, and qui­etly emp­tied their trunk of loaf af­ter loaf of hot dog buns.

An­other car brought the hot dogs to go in them. A truck from the Na­tional Guard brought ice for the cool­ers and bot­tled wa­ter that seemed to ap­pear from nowhere.

Steak, meat­loaf, veal, veni­son. It was all de­liv­ered qui­etly and with­out fan­fare to the two guys with a grill on the cor­ner. And yes, there was fish too, and plenty of it.

Word got out that a hot meal was avail­able on that shady cor­ner, and ev­ery­one from se­niors liv­ing down the block to re­porters work­ing 12 hour days stopped by to sit un­der the trees and share a meal with some­one they knew or some­one they didn’t.

What started out as a one­day cook­out with 300 ham­burger pat­ties, turned into a four­day com­mu­nity feast, rem­i­nis­cent of an­other fa­mous meal long ago, when the loaves and fish were mul­ti­plied, and no one went away hun­gry.

No menus, no busi­ness li­cense, no charge. Frank and Dar­rell just asked them­selves, “What can we do?” and then they did it.

We are tak­ing care of our own.

To all of you who woke up af­ter na­ture’s tem­per tantrum and started liv­ing out these sto­ries, I want to say “thank you.” Be­cause I don’t think these same sto­ries would be told just any­where.

But here, in Chero­kee County, there are hun­dreds of them. And I, for one, am rec­og­niz­ing just how blessed we are to be a part of a com­mu­nity that wakes up the morn­ing af­ter the un­ex­pected and asks them­selves, “What can we do to help?”

It didn’t take long for Chero­kee County to fig­ure out the an­swer to that ques­tion. We can take care of our own.

And we did.

Laure Cle­mons loves be­ing a part of Chero­kee County where she and her fam­ily live out their sto­ries. Her goal this year is to change a lot more lives, one ar­ti­cle at a time. Con­tact her at lclemons@chero­kee­herald.com.

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