Wind Creek donates $100,000 to tornado recovery

Cliff Williams / The Outlook

Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis speaks with Wind Creek property manager Kay Simmons after Wind Creek made a donation to the Wetumpka Police Department following the tornado.

Employees of Wind Creek Casinos helped in the cleanup immediately after the tornado and now the Poarch Creek Indians have donated $100,000 to three Wetumpka organizations.

“As you can see there is so much destruction in the aftermath of the tornado that came through on the 19th,” Wind Creek public relations specialist Kristen Vaughn said. “We’re here to offer a hand.”

Wind Creek employees traveled around Wetumpka Monday afternoon dropping donations to the Wetumpka Police Department, the First Baptist Church and the First Presbyterian Church.

Wetumpka police chief Greg Benton said officials are unsure if the department’s building, which was severely damaged in the tornado, could be salvaged.

“Definitely the back part of the building is gone,” Benton said. “We are lucky it did not strike just a few minutes earlier. The squad room had five officers in it and it was demolished.”

Wind Creek gave the department $25,000 and Benton said it will be spent wisely.

“Lots of equipment was damaged and destroyed and (the money) will go towards that,” Benton said.

Preachers are almost always against gaming but that didn’t stop Wind Creek from donating $25,000 to First Baptist Church of Wetumpka for recovery efforts. First Presbyterian Church pastor Jonathan Yarboro said the church will gladly accept Wind Creek’s $50,000 donation.

“We were very touched. I was very touched and the session was unanimous in accepting the gift because Wind Creek is a good community partner,” Yarboro said.

Yarboro said the donation will not have to go toward rebuilding the church.

“Thankfully we were overinsured,” Yarboro said. “Their intention was to use it to rebuild our building. We asked if we did not need it for that purpose if we could use it to help rebuild the community at large and they said yes.”

Yarboro said the elders of the church decided the day after the tornado how to go forward.

“We will rebuild the sanctuary just as it was,” Yarboro said. “It was a beacon for the community. It was a landmark for all of us and beyond.”

Yarboro said the construction crews will start soon to remove the timbers and lumber on the church site and recover what it can to be reused. Another item recovered was the church bell found in the rubble some 50 feet from where it was in the church steeple.

“We can still ring it,” Yarboro said. “It will take a tough tug on a rope to do it.”

While parts of the church are destroyed, Yarboro said the church will move its services from the Wetumpka Depot back to the church site in the fellowship hall once some cleanup is done. Services will move back into the sanctuary once it is completed.

Yarboro said church members are looking forward to one service in particular.

“We normally have our Easter service at Gold Star Park,” Yarboro said. “There are many members who are wanting to hold an Easter service in the rebuilt sanctuary once it’s ready.”