East Palestine’s First Church of Christ in Ohio is emerging as a lifeline for many residents in need of assistance after the train derailment released toxic chemicals into the air causing grave health concerns. According to the Christian Standard, the church has opened a health clinic, is distributing water and other essentials, has started a relief fund to help residents recover, and is getting support from others outside of the state. Bob Helbeck, the senior minister of First Church of Christ, shared that they have been receiving 50 calls a day from nearly every state offering aid and assistance.
The health clinic, which is sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health, opened Tuesday and is providing health assessments for those who fear the impact of the disaster on their bodies. Residents have reported serious health concerns including odd tingling sensations, headaches, and rashes. Helbeck explained that although the government has been testing the air and water quality, people do not trust the reports that they are safe.
Helbeck shared that the church members are stepping up to help out one another, and support from across the country is pouring in as well. He said that one man called from Long Island offering to bring water in his pickup truck.
Although Helbeck tried to offer people some positivity, pointing out that the train derailment could have caused gas stations to explode had it derailed a half-mile earlier, he is still concerned about the future of East Palestine. Helbeck pointed out that local businesses will likely suffer and property values will drop.
Still, Helbeck encouraged his congregation and those in East Palestine saying that although problems continue to arise, they always get back on their feet. The amount of people willing to help each other is inspiring and those willing to go to East Palestine are also giving residents much needed hope.