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Abilene church group helps with recovery efforts in West

By Jennifer Kendall, jkendall@ktxs.com
Published On: Jun 19 2013 09:39:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 20 2013 08:03:57 AM CDT
WEST, Texas -

It’s been just over two months since a fertilizer plant exploded in West killing 15, many of them firefighters responding to an initial fire at the plant.

The blast also injured more than 200 and damaged more than a hundred homes. The Insurance Council of Texas estimated that the West Fertilizer Plant explosion caused more than $100 million in damage.

"At the end of the day we’re making progress. We’re making progress and, I don't know, something tells me it's going to get done," said Vaughn Managan, Texas Baptist Church volunteer coordinator. 

Since the explosion, church groups have come and gone lending a helping hand to those that are uninsured, under-insured, or just need a little support.

"They'll run out of their car and give us a hug, you know, just that we’re here and loving them, were praying with them, sharing Christ with them. Others are shell shocked and so we do our best to comfort them and really our emotions kind of go along with theirs. There's joy sometimes and I’ve been here seven days and I know I’ve cried everyday," said Managan.

This week is being called "Help West Week” and groups from all over the State have shown up to pitch in. 

"A lot of churches have come out just to mow grass and do whatever they can do to help ," said West Mayor Tommy Muska.

One of those church groups is from St. Paul United Methodist in Abilene.

"We're hoping to help people recover from everything and were hoping to help in any way we can," said Katherine Borchert who is volunteering with St. Pauls. 

This is the first time many of them have seen so much wreckage with their own eyes.

"When I heard it was an explosion I didn't really know about the damage it could have done, but when I saw it I was really shocked because of all the houses that have caved in and everything, so it was kind of breathtaking I guess," said Borchert. 

For others, who have been working there for a little while now, the sight of so much devastation is still shocking.

"I’m surprised everyday with the power that was in the blast. I’m surprised with what people do on donated time and donated equipment," said Managan.

Church groups are spending this week looking through wreckage for anything that could be saved and taking down homes that could not be saved so West residents can rebuild. First Baptist Church of West has already paid for the demolition of nearly 40 homes. They’re goal is to get through three houses everyday.

Another thing that is surprising to volunteers is the spirit of those who lost everything.

"It's kind of, I guess, uplifting, cause they're really hopeful. They're just like, ‘we're going to move on, it’s going to get better,’ so it's really cool," Borchert said.

“We’re going to rebuild right here. We're going to stay right here," said Willie Zahirniak who lost his home in the explosion.  

"We're going to get it done. These people are resilient and they're going to get it done. We've demo’d a bunch of houses, there's a lot of houses being brought back up right now, so a lot of activity, and this is going to be a whole new face on this side of town, but it will be ok, it'll be ok," Muska said.