Weather Forecast


Donations overflowing for Wessington Springs tornado victims

Judy McPhail, of Wessington Springs, lost her home to the June 18 tornado that ripped through town. Having lost everything, she searches for some new work clothes Wednesday at the distribution center at the United Methodist Church. (Anna Jauhola/Republic)

WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- Donations are overflowing in Wessington Springs in the third week after an F2 tornado devastated the town.

“We don’t need clothing,” said Marvin Avery, pastor at United Methodist Church, where the distribution center has been set up.

More household items are needed for donations, like silverware, flashlights, laundry soap and kitchen bags.

There are more than 100 boxes in the church basement that contain mostly clothes that can’t be set out due to space purposes. But the clothing and other items that have come in from all over the state have greatly helped, he said.

Judy McPhail visited the distribution center Wednesday during her lunch break. She and her husband, Tom, lost their home to the tornado. All they have left are a few things they were able to salvage.

McPhail works as a business office clerk at Avera Weskota Manor, Wessington Springs’ nursing home. She salvaged few clothing items for work, and feels she has worn the same outfit over and over.

“This has been so helpful,” she said, patting the piles of women’s clothing. “I need work clothes. I feel like I tell people at work, ‘You’re probably getting sick of this outfit, but it’s all I have.’ ”

The McPhails were not home when the tornado struck, and their home did not have a basement. Tom McPhail is a fifth-grade teacher in Iroquois and the girls head basketball coach, so he was in Huron for open gym.

Judy and their daughter, Kelly, went to a neighbor’s home.

“Our house was a shell. A house next to ours actually ran into ours,” she said. “Ours moved 50 feet to the east and turned at a 90-degree angle.”

Kelly, who graduated from high school in May, lost all her graduation gifts and many of the checks she received. However, digging through the rubble, they found four of those checks and were able to cash them.

They have been staying in a mobile home on the Pat and Theresa Hoarty farm while they await the arrival of their new home. Judy McPhail said they have a new house ordered through a company in Sioux Falls and have the groundwork done for the house on their lot.

Although they feel disoriented and displaced, the McPhails are trying to focus on being excited about getting their new house, Judy said.

So far, more than 40 families have benefited from the donations at the distribution center, Avery said. He doesn’t have an exact number for donations that have come in, but he calls it “mind-boggling.”

Businesses, residents and people from outside the area have been generous with donations. One woman who sells Tupperware dropped off eight boxes full of new products for donation. Businesses have donated personal care items like deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes and soap. Still others have donated a variety of towels and other household items.

“We’re keeping track of items that go out for a financial amount to recoup money through federal funds,” he said. “We also keep an inventory of what we have so then Lutheran Social Services can refer people here if needed.”

Lutheran Social Services is set up at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church with some donations provided, but the majority are housed at the United Methodist Church.

Avery, who’s been at the church for two years, said he’s happy to open the rooms for donations. Many aren’t used during the summer, when youth programs are consolidated with other churches.

Aside from needing the items available, Avery said some tornado victims are also in need of encouragement.

“Some people come in to talk and figure how to now deal with the realities of how to step forward from here,” he said.