A shot in front of Park Theatre showing the tornado's damage that was posted in the Facebook group, 'Goderich Ontario Tornado victims and support.'

Knights of Columbus step up for Goderich tornado relief

  • August 29, 2011

TORONTO - The Knights of Columbus in the tornado-ravaged town of Goderich, Ont., are front and centre in the efforts to help the town recover from a devastating tornado that hit Aug. 21.

"(Our hall is) the evacuation centre," Steve Winter, Grand Knight of the Father Nagle Council 5420, told The Catholic Register. "We have a hall that will hold 600 people for banquets."

When the tornado tore through the town, "we were the spot in town that had electricity because we're hooked up to the town's generator," said Winter.

Because the Knights of Columbus hall is the central location for those in need, the Canadian Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Victims Services and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are set up in the hall, too.

Within half an hour of the tornado striking, 12 members of the Goderich Knights had shown up to provide help for those who needed it in the picturesque town on the shores of Lake Huron.

"We feed the workers and the townspeople," he said. "We've had 1,000 people for lunch, so it's quite a bit of bedlam."

The tornado claimed only one life, Norman Laberge, 61, a worker at the Sifto salt mine near the Goderich harbour. In addition, 37 people were injured. Despite the relatively small number of casualties, there has been severe damage to the town's infrastructure, homes and businesses.     On Aug. 22, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the province will spend $5 million to help Goderich rebuild.

A shot from the corner of Montreal Street and The Square showing the tornado's damage that was posted in the Facebook group, 'Goderich Ontario Tornado victims and support.'"People of Goderich, you are not alone," said McGuinty during a brief tour of the town, adding that the sympathies and prayers of the 13 million Ontarians are behind the community.

The donations have been unbelievable — in particular from the Zehr's store located just outside of town, said Winter. The store has "donated approximately $10,000 worth of stuff so far," he said.

Goderich's Catholic church, St. Peter's, was not damaged, said Winter. But the parish is lending a hand. In a letter to Catholic parishes in the diocese of London, Fr. John Sharp wrote that St. Peter's parish is assisting people in the community on a case-by-case emergency basis. Over the Aug. 27-28 weekend, parishes made a special collection to send to St. Peter's parish to help the community.

But Victoria Street United Church was not as fortunate, with major damage, including its roof being blown off.

"It's been decided the whole church has to come down and they aren't even allowed in the building to retrieve any artifacts," Winter said of the 1878 building.

Many members of the Knights of Columbus from outside of Goderich want to help out.

"I've had many calls from Knights of Columbus groups who are willing to come and help us do our shifts, look after the hall and send money," said Winter, adding they've had calls from as far away as Bay City, Michigan.

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