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EF-2 tornado destroys church building in Polk County used to feed families in need

Posted at 10:38 AM, Oct 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-20 10:46:21-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — A powerful EF-2 tornado caused significant damage across Polk County late on Friday night, leaving at least 50 structures damaged.

Among the buildings affected is the Mount Tabor Baptist Church. The church says their ministry center was destroyed.

credit judi yester.jpg
Storm damage in Lakeland

Pastor Matt Gilmore is concerned the porch might collapse.

"it's held by four pillars. One is down and the other three are dislodged," Gilmore said.

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The National Weather Service says the tornado was on the ground from 10:45 p.m. until about 11:45 p.m. It ripped the roof of the center and caused water damage.

Gilmore says the church uses the building to feed up to 200 families every Thursday.

"That's really our biggest thing we have to overcome right now is how we're going to continue to do that," said Pastor Gilmore. "I'm going to look for a refrigerator box truck. If I have a refrigerator box truck, I can do it this week. I have to find that resource."

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The church was handing out food it had in its freezers before the tornado on Saturday as they assessed the damage.

"We're emptying the freezers and distributing it to the neighborhood," added Pastor Gilmore.

On Saturday, dozens of volunteers and church members showed up to clean up the destruction left behind from the tornado.

"When you're part of a church like this it's family. They're your brothers and sisters and we all just have to pitch in and get it done," said Michelle Dodge, church member.

PHOTOS: Severe weather damage in Polk County

Sunday services at Mount Tabor Baptist Church were moved to Bethel Baptist Church in Lakeland.

The Pastor doesn't know when church services will resume.

"We cleaned up in the inside of the church. A lot of water damage where we had some broken windows so we cleaned that up, moped up the water and eventually we can rebuild and get it better again," said Dodge.