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Iowa parish still working to help tornado victims after deadly twister

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Residents continue recovery and cleanup efforts on May 23, 2024, with the help of family and friends following Tuesday’s destructive tornado in Greenfield, Iowa. The storm was responsible for several deaths in the small community. / Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

CNA Staff, May 24, 2024 / 18:08 pm (CNA).

Ever since a massive tornado ripped through the small town of Greenfield, Iowa, the afternoon of May 21, St. John’s Catholic Church has been mobilizing volunteers to provide material assistance and respite to those in need. 

According to a blog post from the Diocese of Des Moines, St. John’s opened its doors the afternoon of the disaster to provide shelter, food, a place for the community to charge their phones, and to rest. That evening the parish provided pizza in their parking lot until 9 p.m. and Greenfield residents used the parish hall to charge their phones until 10 p.m. 

Believed to be an EF-4 based on data from the National Weather Service, the tornado, which left a line of destruction from 2:57 p.m. to 3:43 p.m. local time, has killed at least five people and injured 35. Peak winds were estimated at 175-185 mph and the tornado was at least 1,000 yards across. Greenfield is situated about an hour’s drive southwest of Des Moines.

“Our church has been designated as a collection point for nonperishable food and hygiene items, and providing meals,” Father Philip Yaw Bempong, St. John’s pastor, told the diocese.

“This morning [May 22], we provided breakfast for those impacted and our volunteers. Currently, we are distributing sack lunches, and local volunteers are cooking food in our parking lot … We will continue serving warm meals three times daily and remain open as a place to eat, relax, charge devices, and access necessities such as hygiene products, food, and water.”


On its Facebook page, the parish said on Friday that it has been “abundantly blessed with donations” of nonperishable food items, hygiene items, and gift cards, and encouraged community members who are in need after the tornado to come and get them. They also said restaurants have been donating food in order to help the parish continue to provide free meals. 


The Diocese of Des Moines said Wednesday it is doing a damage assessment, inviting all pastors and parishes to send to its communications office what kind of damage their communities sustained and how the diocese might be of assistance.

Bishop William Joensen will be with the Greenfield community on Saturday, the diocese said, celebrating the 5 p.m. Mass at St. John’s.


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