Friday, March 14, 2014

Marathon Support Letter: A Community In Need

March 14, 2014

Dear Friend,

On Sunday, November 17, 2013, a devastating F5 tornado ripped through the town of Washington, Illinois, leaving 1,484 homes in the town either completely destroyed or severely damaged. November tornados are pretty rare, but this tornado packed an incredibly forceful punch. On the news, the damage was unbelievable as I saw whole neighborhoods leveled.

By the grace of God, only two people lost their lives in this tragedy. However, the town of 15,410 people was forced to pick up the pieces.

My girlfriend Ellen came across the Bethany Community Church Facebook page one night and decided to like their page because she saw they were taking volunteers to help clean up after the tornado. In early December Ellen and I made the journey down there to volunteer. We were sent out with a team of eight or so others to clean up glass, insulation, and other debris from the front lawns of two houses that suffered damage but weren’t destroyed. We found a kid’s high school graduation photo in the lawn of the house we primarily worked at.  On the next block over, several houses were completely gone. Two houses down from where we were, all that was left was a foundation of a house.

A picture of the damage.
This was only the beginning of it. After we were done helping out, we drove through the heart of where the tornado hit. It is so different to see something on television compared to actually experiencing it. Words can’t truly describe the carnage we saw. A new subdivision was completely gone, cars were pulverized, and any semblance of houses had been reduced to rubble. I took some video of the decimation but also wanted to be sensitive to those who lost so much. These were people’s lives that had been radically changed.

Over the winter months, Ellen and I both wanted to go back to volunteer but didn’t make it back. We are planning on going to volunteer this spring.

As you may know, I enjoy running. I ran many races from June-October of 2013, including a half marathon on my birthday in October. On Valentine’s Day of this year, I signed up for the 2014 Wisconsin Marathon that will be held on Saturday, May 3rd. You can call me crazy, and I would agree with you; it’s a little scary to think about running 26.2 miles.

I have a time goal for this race, but that doesn’t matter compared to what I really want to accomplish. God is humbling me and teaching me more and more each day that I shouldn’t be doing this for my glory. It should be for his glory, and I’ve also decided I want to raise funds for the tornado relief in Washington.

At this point, nearly five months have passed , and only 50% of the clean-up effort has been done. Additionally, in January FEMA denied a request for disaster aid to the area because they said the damage wasn’t severe enough to warrant federal help. I was down there and couldn’t disagree more.  It takes snowplows a few hours to clear the roads of snow, but we’re just going to neglect and further hinder rebuilding efforts of Washington?

A new subdivision was torn to shreds.
The people of Washington may be down and hurt by this, but they are definitely a strong bunch. The phrase “Washington Strong” was created shortly after the tornado to describe the resilience of the people. I personally worked with a Washington resident whose house was intact, and he was spending his time helping fellow Washington residents. I failed to mention that his former house, which was sold just months before the tornado hit, was now reduced to rubble.  He just wanted to help his fellow hurting brothers and sisters out.

The race I’m running is the first Saturday in May in Kenosha, Wisconsin, 194 miles from Washington.  These people in Washington may never know that a total stranger is running 26.2 miles and thinking about them, but this is where you come in.

I want to raise as much money as possible. I could have picked a number of worthy causes to raise money for, but this is the one cause I feel called to. Bethany Community Church’s blog post in December of 2013 explained what the money will be used for:

Future Spending
·      We plan to continue to give funds to those affected by the tornado that will meet their physical needs in order to restore them and their property to pre-tornado condition (moving expenses, deductibles, landscaping).

·      We plan to spend funds on gifts to those affected by the tornado that will meet their spiritual needs (Bibles, counseling material, etc.).

·      We plan to use funds to cover expenses of volunteers who are helping those affected by the tornado (purchasing lunches, providing supplies, fuel costs, etc.).

·      We are NOT using funds given to the tornado relief fund to cover any of Bethany’s administrative staff costs. For example, we are hiring a part-time person to help temporarily with tornado relief ministry who will be funded from giving to our general fund.

As you can see, we are spending 100% of funds given to our relief efforts to benefit families affected by the tornado.

So will you help me? All of the proceeds I raise will go directly into the tornado relief. Once I collect all of the money, I will send it all via PayPal or check. If finances are an issue, do not feel like you have to give. I just ask that you pray for the people in Washington. Things to pray for: meeting physical and spiritual needs of the people, that these people rely on God as their strength to overcome, and finally for the volunteers who are helping those affected.

On the day of the race, I will be wearing a Sport –Tek t-shirt that will read “Washington Strong”. All I’m doing is running a long race. These people in Washington have already accomplished more than I ever will.

_____________ (check box) Yes, I will support Washington, Illinois financially and give money .

_____________(check box) Yes, I will support the people of Washington, Illinois through my prayers .

Thank you for your taking the time to read this letter. Here is my contact information if you have any further questions.

Or message me on Facebook

God Bless you,

Billy Smith

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