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Article updated: 12/25/2013 4:31 PM

Pastor's church focused on post-tornado recovery

A man walks through what is left of a neighborhood in Washington, Ill., a day after the Nov. 17 tornado ripped through the central Illinois town.

A man walks through what is left of a neighborhood in Washington, Ill., a day after the Nov. 17 tornado ripped through the central Illinois town.

 

Associated Press

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON, Ill. -- A pastor whose church was central to cleanup efforts after deadly tornadoes swept through central Illinois last month said it's time for a new phase of recovery.

Pastor Tom Goodell of Crossroads United Methodist Church in Washington said he and other pastors are concerned about the mental health of the local residents, especially as the tough winter months approach. Washington was hit hard by one of about two dozen tornadoes that struck in Illinois on Nov. 17.

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"All of the city's pastors are worried about January and February," Goodell told the (Peoria) Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1fH6Scj ). "Winter's coming. We're going to get snow, and it's going to be dark. We're going to have to live with the city looking like this for a while."

The church has let mental health experts set up shop inside. Church officials are also calling victims on a regular basis, and there are daily events just so people can stop by.

Seven people died statewide and many more were injured when the tornadoes hit. More than 1,000 homes in Washington were destroyed; at Goodell's church alone, 74 families lost their homes.

The tornado in Washington struck shortly before an 11 a.m. service and congregants went into the church's storm shelters.

As recovery efforts began, the church was transformed into a shelter where more than 30,000 meals and 57,000 bottles of water were handed out. Unlike other parts of town, the church parking lot still had light. It was also where officials with the American Red Cross and other recovery groups set up outposts.

Church officials and others credit Goodell's work as selfless and tireless.

"It was always about caring for the people, it was always about that for him," said Amber Johnsen, an accounting assistant at the church. "All those people, those hundreds of people that came to be healed in his church, he loves all those people."

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