Layton pastor prepares relief for Joplin

May 24 2011 - 6:05am

LAYTON -- After a night of worry as he watched the devastation in Joplin, Mo., on television, Myke Crowder finally got the sigh of relief he was hoping for Monday morning.

His extended family had been in the direct path of a half-mile-wide tornado that tore through the city Sunday night.

By daybreak, much of the south side was a smoking wasteland and at least 116 people had been killed. By 10 a.m., Crowder got word that his family survived, although one relative's home was leveled.

Now, the pastor of Layton's Christian Life Center church is loading up the family motor home with food, clothing and relief money to help them and their broken city.

"I know they're devastated, in shock," he said.

His family was already planning a trip to their hometown -- but when the news broke, they decided to turn it into a relief effort. The church is receiving donations at its 2352 E. Highway 193 location through Sunday afternoon, when Crowder plans to leave.

The church has also set up drop-off points at Automatic Car Credit's Layton, Ogden and Salt Lake City locations, as well as at Northern Realty in Layton Hills Mall.

"It started out with just the church, but now that the community's getting involved, it's become a larger-scale distribution and we're going to get out to people who need help. There's no shortage of need," Crowder said.

The 36-foot RV can hold a lot, but Crowder plans to secure any additional vehicles he needs.

Cheryl Bjorklund, church secretary, said people called in all day Monday asking if they could donate food, water and other necessities to the effort.

"It brings you to tears at times to see how everyone is pulling together to help everybody," she said.

But it's just as hard to watch the destruction, "especially when they're taking people out of the rubble," Bjorklund said.

She was surprised to hear that the death toll had gone up. The disaster is tied for the country's most deadly tornado on record.

Authorities fear the toll could rise again as the full scope of the destruction comes into view: houses reduced to slabs, cars crushed like soda cans, shaken residents roaming streets in search of missing family members.

Crowder got a call early Monday morning from a friend doing triage around the city. "(She) called ... and told me how devastating it was. It was beyond description."

His family members can only get in touch with him via text message, with most phone communication in and out of Joplin cut off. But next week, he plans to talk to them face to face after arriving with a potential caravan of charity.

"Whatever we can gather to take is a drop in the bucket compared to what they need, but a drop nonetheless."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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