Neighbors pitch in to help explosion victims

Gladney (L) and Simmons brought donations.
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The explosion that rocked the Richmond Hill subdivision could be heard and felt for miles away.

Maureen Simmons, who moved to Beech Grove from California last month, thought it was an earthquake.

"It was a horrendous boom," Simmons said. "The windows shook in the upstairs bedroom. The entire house shook."

Her friend Destria Gladney said, "When they said (in the news reports) it looked like a war zone, I'm familiar with that."

Gladney, an Army veteran, felt called to duty. She and Simmons headed to Southport Presbyterian Church, which had quickly become the collection point for all sorts of donations meant for the victims.

"You just need to come in and not sit on your duff and volunteer to help," Gladney said. "They've got a lot of stuff here that needs to be packaged, so we're here to help."

Simmons said, "It's had me shaken. I don't know anybody here, but I can't imagine what's it been like (for the victims.) It's really sad."

The church's new senior pastor Rob Hock was overwhelmed by the outpouring, but not surprised. "When you think broadly about the Southport area, there's just a desire to invest, build and care for the community," he said. "We're neighbors of one another."

Well into the evening, people were still stopping by the church to help.

Brenda Plum arrived with her daughter Michelle McConnell, bringing several big plastic bags of blankets, clothing and shoes.

Plum pulled out a shoe box, "There's four pair of these. They're men's work shoes, brand new, never been worn before."

Plum lives in an apartment across from the subdivision where the explosion occurred.

"It scared me because I thought an airplane had crashed," she said. "We all went to the top of the hill and saw a big fire ball. It was horrible."

Plum and McConnell wanted to help however they could.

Pointing to the bags of donated items, McConnell said, "Just give it to them. I don't need it. They need. If it keeps them warm..."

She summed it up, "You help when you need to. That's what Hoosiers do. You gotta help each other out when times are hard and boy, it doesn't get any harder than this."

The church planned to provide breakfast for victims and residents of Richmond Hill Monday morning between 6:30 a.m and 8:30 a.m. It also planned to accept and distribute donations between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The Indiana Red Cross is providing assistance to victims. Monday morning, Barb Coury of the Red Cross said, "We need cash."  She recommends donating through the Red Cross Website and sending cash, or buying gift cards for stores and restaurants that displaced residents can use while they cannot use their homes.