The Rev. Martin Nussbaum of the First United Church of Christ in Sheffield stands in front of a wall of five-gallon buckets filled with supplies to help in a disaster response. The church donated 180 masks to the Sheffield OSF clinic to use during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Rev. Martin Nussbaum of the First United Church of Christ in Sheffield stands in front of a wall of five-gallon buckets filled with supplies to help in a disaster response. The church donated 180 masks to the Sheffield OSF clinic to use during the coronavirus pandemic.

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SHEFFIELD — First United Church of Christ, a little church in Sheffield, led the way in preparing for the worst, and now they are glad they did.

The Rev. Martin Nussbaum, pastor, delivered 180 face masks to the Sheffield OSF clinic on Monday for use during the coronavirus pandemic.

How the Sheffield church came to possess 180 masks is an interesting story.

After last year’s flooding, Church World Service came way short in the number of cleanup buckets that they needed.

“The United Church of Christ Conference of Illinois had been asked for 200 buckets,” said Roger Dart, director of disaster ministries, “and we only had three to give them. The church in Freeport had another dozen buckets that they used locally, but it simply was not enough.”

According to a news release submitted by the Sheffield church, 2018-19 was the wettest year on record going back to 1895. Dubuque, Iowa, was above flood stage for 85 days. Flood barriers failed in Davenport, Iowa, flooding portions of the downtown area. Church World Service supplies were stretched beyond capacity.

“My hometown of Madison, S.D., was completely underwater,” Nussbaum said.

“Every highway in and out of town was cut off. My own brother’s apartment was damaged, and he had to move out to the farm to live with my parents.”

Places all over the Midwest were facing disastrous situations.

“So when Roger told me how woefully unprepared we were, I decided to do something about it,” Nussbaum said.

“We could not afford to think of the type of weather we had last year as a once-in-a-lifetime event. We are seeing these events happen more and more often. They are the new normal,” he said.

Church World Service is a ministry going back to the end of World War II when 17 denominations came together to help rebuild after the war.

“It used to be one of those mission projects that every Sunday school and mission group did. It did not require many people or an astronomical amount of money, but as churches started having fewer and fewer people, this became one of the simple ministries that fell to the wayside,” Dart said.

Each bucket contains cleaning supplies and protective supplies that are needed in disaster areas. The approximate cost of putting a bucket together is $35.

First United Church of Christ began putting together kits last November, and it took some work to get people interested in it.

“We asked numerous businesses to contribute, and we got a bunch of buckets from local restaurants, but most of them acted like this could never affect them. Even individuals kept saying, we can put it off until the spring melt comes and see how bad it gets. I kept saying that we cannot wait until then because then it will be too late,” Nussbaum said.

The kits are used for all sorts of disasters, including flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, anyplace where volunteers might become exposed to toxins or bacteria.

They ended up collecting 16 buckets, which is more than the entire Illinois conference combined had done the year previously.

“I was proud of them,” Nussbaum said.

“I keep telling people that small-town churches is where things get done, and we proved it this year.”

They had ordered 180 dust masks before the coronavirus scare hit.

“We received them last week, and we took them over to the clinic. It was exactly for events like this that we had ordered them. We will just have to order some more, once supplies start moving again, for the next disaster,” Nussbaum said.

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