Leader of storm-damaged Belleville church says food pantry will need help in coming weeks

·4 min read

Scott Baker, the founding pastor of Faith Baptist Church in downtown Belleville, was thankful for what didn’t happen in Thursday night’s storm that blew the roof off of the church’s office building and toppled a chimney onto its food pantry.

“No one was hurt, praise God,” Baker said Friday. “All the rest of this we can put back together.”

Baker, along with other leaders and members of Faith Baptist Church at 405 E. Main St., spent Friday dealing with the chaos caused by the storm.

A representative of the National Weather Service said the agency had not investigated the Belleville site to determine if it was high winds or a tornado that caused the damage. The weather service reported a tornado tore a 16.9-mile long path from Breese to Greenville. Other reports are being investigated near Freeburg.

“It was a pretty major wind that did that,” Baker said of the damages at Faith Baptist.

The church’s auditorium is located in the former Ritz Theater and apparently escaped any major damage. The office building that was damaged is adjacent to the former theater.

The storm also toppled a chimney and damaged the roof of the church’s food pantry building at the corner of Walnut and East A streets.

Church leaders hope to have services in the auditorium on Sunday but that depends upon whether electricity can be restored to the auditorium. Some Sunday school classes are conducted in the damaged office building so they will have to be located.

Pastor Rick Koonce said the congregation has insurance for the buildings. He said, however, that the congregation may need community help in the coming weeks to replenish supplies for the food pantry that’s part of the church’s Grace & Law Ministries.

“We’re going to be starting from scratch with that,” Koonce said.

The angled roof that blew off the two-story office building was a wood frame structure that had been attached to the building’s original flat roof. Debris from the roof blew into the parking lot, alley and East A Street behind the building. Debris pierced through the hood and damaged a window on one of the church’s buses.

Since the powerline was knocked out at the food pantry, freezers from the food pantry have been moved to the church’s teen center at the corner of East Main and South Charles streets.

Ted Bealer, who directs the food pantry, said the ministry helps 250 people each month. He noted that it was fortunate that the storm hit on a Thursday night because the pantry had distributed many of its supplies earlier in the week.

Church leaders do not yet have an estimate on the total cost of the damages caused by the storm. They also don’t know how long the repairs will take because contractors told them that there are supply chain delays for the materials needed to fix the damages.

The office building that was damaged dates to 1926 and was originally the home of the Procasky car dealership, according to research by the Belleville Historical Society. The food pantry building was operating as a grocery store in 1884 and possibly was built in the 1870s.

Across the street from the church, the Community Kindness Resale Shop at 500 E. Main St. also sustained damage in the storm.

Edward Hoerner, a board member of the shop, said 10 to 12 glazed clay tiles known as “ridge caps” affixed to the top edge of the building’s roof were knocked off. The tiles are about 26 inches long and 13 inches wide.

He said a roofing company was scheduled to visit to further assess the damage.

The west side of the resale shop dates to 1918 when the Modern Automobile and Garage business was located there.

Koonce wasn’t sure what his message will be during his sermon on Sunday, but on Friday he was thinking about an Old Testament passage about Elijah encountering a powerful wind, an earthquake, a fire and then a gentle whisper.

“I just want to point our church to the calmness in the storm, just that still, small voice,” Koonce said.

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