The devastation of the Nov. 17 tornado in Washington stopped about 200 yards short of Crossroads United Methodist Church. 

But in the hours, days and weeks following, the church became a “beacon” of help and hope to those in need.

The Salvation Army honored Crossroads with its Spirit of the Army award last week during its annual community luncheon.

Major Evie Diaz, the divisional commander for the Peoria area Salvation Army discussed how the not-for-profit organization started its “Partners for Good” program in the spring of 2013. 

“We started looking to build more partnerships in the community,” Diaz said. “But everything took a turn on Nov. 17. But along with that, we gained new partnerships.”

During the awards program, the Salvation Army officials said Crossroads became a shelter for tornado victims and center of operations for agencies that included the Salvation Army. 

In addition to Crossroads church, the Salvation Army honored two volunteers from Washington.

Stan Cohen of Firehouse Pizza and Nikki Hudson, the kitchen supervisor at Crossroads were honored with the Salvation Army Others Award. 

Cohen’s restaurant was closed because the tornado had knocked out power, so he was looking for places where he could volunteer. 

“Utilizing his connections in the restaurant business, Stan went to work along side Nikki and her volunteers at the

Church,” the Salvation Army said. 

In the first week alone, Cohen, Hudson and the volunteers at the church served 30,000 meals to tornado survivors, first responders and volunteers. They also took on the task of preparing meals for the disaster canteens operating by the Salvation Army. 

Retired Caterpillar Chairman Donald Fites was the keynote speaker at the luncheon held April 30 at the Pere Marquette in Peoria.

During his remarks, Fites discussed some of the Salvation Army’s lesser known programs such as addiction recovery programs and its family-member tracing services that helps police find missing persons.