Columbia Union Visitor, with Adventist Review staff,
eventh-day Adventist leaders in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania have expressed gratitude for an outpouring of support from the local community after a tornado destroyed a church-owned elementary school last week.
The powerful storm struck the Blue Mountain Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, at around 6:45 p.m. on July 9, taking off the roof, destroying the gym, and knocking down several walls.
Principal Rachel Wardecke was alone in the building at the time.
Shaken but not seriously injured, Wardecke immediately told reporters, “Our school will open again.”
Members of the local community and area churches immediately joined the school family in offering prayers and other support. Local businesses donated and delivered supplies. Walmart contributed cases of water.
Lowe’s, a chain of home improvement stores, was the first on the scene with donated tarps, water, and various supplies. Pizza Hut and Dunkin’ Donuts brought pizzas and doughnuts for cleanup volunteers. Local contractors offered their services for free, including tree services to remove the damaged trees near the 46-year-old brick structure.
Volunteers worked both Friday and Sunday after the tornado to remove debris and clean the site as much as was safely possible. Even journalists who arrived at the school to report about the devastation pitched in and helped with the cleanup.
Insurance adjusters were quickly on site to assess the damage and are working closely with the Adventist Church’s Pennsylvania Conference, which owns and operates the school, to provide the funds needed for a temporary facility and for the future plans of the school. A demolition company will remove the rest of the building.
“The tornado may have destroyed the building, but it did not destroy the future of Adventist education in Hamburg,” the Pennsylvania Conference said in a statement Thursday.
The elementary school has been serving families in the Hamburg and surrounding areas since 1954 and is committed to providing students an Adventist Christian education, it said.
The school will open as scheduled on Aug. 18 but in classrooms at Blue Mountain Academy across the street. The academy and the Blue Mountain Academy church have both offered the temporary use of their facilities for the coming school year.