Just two blocks from Jackson Street, a main center of the May 22 tornado's damage, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. stood ready to help Jefferson City residents in the aftermath.
One church member has remained a constant beacon for those in need of hope.
Serving as volunteer site coordinator for Quinn Chapel's Hope Shoppe, Derese Herndon has helped provide countless area residents with the food and household items they needed to keep going after the storm.
Herndon, a 25-year member of the church on Lafayette Street, headed straight to Quinn Chapel the morning after the tornado — first to check on her daughter, who lives in the area, then to check on the church itself, which didn't sustain much damage.
"I think I've been up here ever since," she said with a laugh.
The church opened the Hope Shoppe within three days of the storm.
"Several of us went to the store and bought items that we thought people would be able to use, and before you know it, we just started getting donations from everywhere — other churches from out of the city, we had some out of state donating items and cash to buy items — and it just kept rolling," Herndon said.
Quinn Chapel's original goal was to provide whatever help people needed or connect them with the right resources. They partnered with Love2Nourish and volunteers from other churches including Second Baptist, One in Christ Baptist and House of Refuge to bring meals and water to people in affected areas. Some needed a temporary hotel room, some needed money for fuel to drive to work, and some simply needed diapers.
"If we had it, we tried to help them out," Herndon said.
While no longer full to the brim with donated goods, the Hope Shoppe in Quinn Chapel's lower level still offers neatly organized rows of canned goods, diapers, shampoo and other personal care items. It's no longer open daily as in the weeks immediately after the tornado, but Herndon is still there from noon-3 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays and from 3-6 p.m. Thursdays to greet anyone who might need a few things.
"I just felt like I had to do something," she said. "Coming in here and fixing bags, that was something I could do."
Images of devastation in parts of Jefferson City the morning after the storm still stay with her.
"I think this was something to wake us up, wake everybody up," Herndon said. "You got to help each other. You can't be just hateful and everything. You have to help your community if you want to save your community."
Other "Heroes of the Storm"
There were nearly 20 individuals and organizations who received plaques Saturday, Aug. 27, 2019, at a ceremony recognizing them as "Heroes of the Storm" for their actions during the May 22 tornado. Read their stories: