Sylvester Darnell says he could not just watch from a distance when he learned a destructive band of tornadoes hit the Dayton area on Memorial Day.
“My family is still here,” said Darnell, an Atlanta resident born and raised in the Miami Valley. “I love my city.”
Darnell arrived in the Dayton area a day after 15 tornadoes uprooted trees, ripped the roofs off houses and businesses and left thousands without electricity, water and/or food.
“I want to make sure we can get people back on their feet, get them restarted,” Darrell said.
The CEO of The Ground Up Production and a band of eight volunteers that included father and daughter JD and Hayley Carson of Safe House Studios of Dayton quickly started providing food and water to those in need.
The operation continues to grow and attract those in need and volunteers, some of whom are in need themselves.
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Within a few days, the distribution point moved to the parking lot of Pippin’s Market, a gas station and store at 5440 Olive Road in Trotwood.
It is one of several donation centers set up in the Dayton area since the tornadoes hit.
Darrell and the Carsons say community members and a list of businesses that includes Walmart, Dollar General, Rite Aid and Kohl’s have dropped off food, cleaning supplies, water and a variety of toiletries.
“The help just came in abundance,” said Darnell, a father of five.
Free clothing is available from a space the market is allowing the group to use.
When this news organization visited them Tuesday, workers from social service organizations were there to offer information and assistance to those in need.
Carson said the makeshift donation center is offering deliveries via the Safe House Studios Facebook page to those who cannot get there.
The Miamisburg resident said the need remains strong even as time passes.
“We don’t want people to stop. We don’t want them to forget. We don’t want them to think that this is old news because it is not,” she said. “We are going to be here as long as we possibly can.”
Carson said the most needed items include cleaning supplies, deodorant, body wash and baby items like diapers, wipes, baby food and formula.
“Those are the big ticket items because they are expensive to replenish,” she said. “Those funds can be utilized in other ways.”
Many people have lost both their jobs and their homes as a result of the tornadoes, she said.
“We want to do everything we can to show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Carson said.
Although he no longer lives in Dayton, Darrell said he considers Dayton his home and it is where he has many family members and friends, some impacted directly by the tornadoes.
“When I (saw) a need, I had to come,” he said.
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He said he worries that the sight of destruction will make some want to leave the community.
“To go out there as hard as I am and hoping that other people go as hard and even harder, shows that we love our city. We can commit to our city. We can make stuff happen,” he said. “If we don’t do it for ourselves, no one is going to come in and help do it.”
Greene County resident Tabitha Fletcher said the effort was appreciated.
She stopped by the market Tuesday to pick up items for family members who live near the Trotwood and Dayton border.
“They lost everything,” she said.
Volunteer Sally Boston of Clayton was grilling hamburgers that very same day.
“There are so many people who lost everything, and I feel so blessed,” she said. “I want to help them however I can. It is important that we all help.”