Book launch and St. John’s benefit: Volunteer shares family’s story of survival

By Mary Lovell

On August 18, 2005, a now-categorized F5 tornado tore through our hometown of Stoughton, Wisconsin. It was the most terrifying experience a then 7 and 9-year-old brother and sister could experience. Our mom was home with our dog, Madison, while we were with our dad across town while he was donating blood at the American Red Cross. What we didn’t know was just hours later, the Red Cross would be in our community with food, water, and supplies. That night, we were homeless, including most of our neighborhood. We didn’t know what we were going to do as the majority of the neighborhood was declared a state of emergency by the governor. We can’t imagine the fear that went through our parents’ minds, knowing their home and office was battered, their children no longer had a home, and multiple Stoughton residents were injured or even killed. How did our family and neighbors get through the devastation of that horrific day? The honest answer is through the incredible acts of kindness and generosity of community, volunteers, donations, and the power of prayer.

Fast-forward 14 years. We are Mary and Stephen Lovell, Notre Dame Academy graduates and current Marquette University students. St. John’s Homeless Shelter has played an important role in the Green Bay community for years, humbling helping those in need through services and programs as part of their mission. We’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer with St. John’s. While in high school, Stephen was elected student body president and started making connections with St. John’s to serve meals on Sunday nights with his friends. Over the course of the summer, he told Mary about volunteering here and together, we cooked and served weekly breakfasts and lunches. Here, we chatted and ate meals with the residents while listening to their stories. After, we cleaned and packed up the extra food for more meals the next day.

While we don’t know what it’s like to be in a situation like some of the folks we met, we have incredible empathy for our new friends because we understand the feeling of not having a home to go home to. Thankfully, St. John’s provides necessary opportunities to assist the homeless of our Green Bay community.

So, you might be asking, what does a tornado have to do with the two of us volunteering at St. John’s? Mary and our mom, Sally, together co-authored a book called Glass Storm: The 2005 Stoughton, Wisconsin Tornado. The goal of the book is to share the story of that frightening day and say thank you to the countless police officers, firefighters, EMT services, and volunteers from various organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who helped lend a hand during this scary time.

On Saturday, September 14 from 1-3pm at the Barnes & Noble in Green Bay (2498 S. Oneida St.), we are having a book launch for Glass Storm. Come join us as we celebrate the book release as a portion of the proceeds from sales at this Barnes and Noble store on this day will be donated to St. John’s Homeless Shelter! The book is also available on, and signed copies at

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