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MDS coordinates early response in Iowa after devastating windstorm

August 18, 2020

Lititz, PA – In the wake of a powerful August 10-11 derecho—a straight-line windstorm—that  tore through the Midwest, Early Response Teams from Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) are helping people clean up, remove damaged trees, and cope with feelings of isolation. Power still has not been restored in much of the state.

Winds of more than 100 mph tore off roofs, collapsed walls, upended trees, demolished barns, and left thousands of residents sweltering in the summer heat. Hard-hit areas include Cedar Rapids, Marshalltown, Des Moines, Ames, and Shellsburg, with other areas still being assessed.

The MDS Early Response Teams are made up of 14-16 volunteers who are able to drive to the disaster sites each day to help people most in need. With track hoes, skid steers, and grapples, they have been working to clear downed trees and heavy debris for farmers and churches.

Residents are struggling to save frozen food, and many have already been forced to throw away hundreds of dollars worth of groceries. MDS has been able to loan generators and freezer space to some.

MDS is accepting donations so that volunteers can help even more farmers, churches and residents in Iowa. Click here to make a donation.

For now, said MDS Executive Director Kevin King, volunteers from out of state aren’t needed—but they may be at some point in the future.

“Access to the area is very limited, and there is no place for out-of-town volunteers to stay,” explained King. “Our teams are reporting that debris, road damage and highway closures are causing travel delays.”

MDS is working with local long-term recovery groups in the hardest hit areas to determine the need for long-term recovery projects as well as how to respond safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are working closely with emergency managers in the most affected areas,” said King. “Please be in solidarity with the people of Iowa with your donations and your prayers as we plan our response. Your donations also help support our Early Response Teams as they work long hours with a lot of heavy lifting on the ground.” 


Mennonite Disaster Service is a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that responds in Christian love to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States.  While the main focus is on clean up, repair and rebuilding homes, this service touches lives and nurtures hope, faith and wholeness. 

For generations of Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups, mutual aid has been an informal practice of expressing their faith in the day-to-day actions of caring for one another. Through spontaneous gestures of assistance, such as the well-known barn raising, the Anabaptists put their faith into action when fellow church members or neighbors faced calamity.