The American Red Cross is providing comfort and support to help thousands of people across many states that have been hit hard by recent severe storms. Preliminary reports indicate about 3,000 homes across nine states were destroyed or heavily damaged by tornadoes or floods since April 25.
Trained Red Cross workers and volunteers are providing shelter, food, relief supplies, health services, emotional support and other assistance to those in need. Emergency shelters are still open in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
FEEDING WITH SOUTHERN BAPTIST KITCHEN The Red Cross has a long-time collaboration with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in feeding people who have been affected by a disaster. In northern Alabama, the two groups are working together again in response to recent storms. The Red Cross provides the food, the Southern Baptists prepare it in their mobile kitchens, and the food is distributed by Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles. Yesterday, the lunch menu included Salisbury steak, baked beans, bread and fruit cocktail.
Three meals a day are currently being prepared at the Southern Baptist Kitchen. In addition to meals distributed by the Red Cross, meals are being served to people affected by the tornadoes at the kitchen site.
DISASTER MENTAL HEALTH TEAMS A tornado leaves people bewildered, confused and afraid. Often much of what they have is gone, and sometimes friends and family are killed or injured. For those affected, the future is unknown, but the fear is present.
Additionally, a disaster can take away a person’s sense of control and what’s known and comfortable to them. Those affected by a tornado often feel emotionally and physically drained or incapable of making decisions.
“These people aren’t ill. What they’re experiencing is a normal reaction to an abnormal event,” said Red Cross volunteer Bill Martin, a retired psychologist from Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Most people are eventually able to cope. For others, it may take longer, and it may be a journey they can’t complete alone. That’s where the Red Cross can help with Disaster Mental Health teams, which include psychologists, counselors and other experts. The teams go where the people are, including shelters, aid stations or in the middle of damaged areas.
Dave Daly is a retired counselor from Belleville, Illinois, and one of the team members who has been talking to those in the Pearl, Mississippi area.
“We’re not doing therapy. We’re doing psychological first aid,” he said. “We want to get them to talk. Sometimes they cry and that helps get the emotions out.”
If a person needs additional assistance, the Red Cross provides the names of local resources that can offer long-term assistance.
RED CROSS RESPONSE In response to this severe spring weather, nearly 1,900 trained Red Cross workers and 70 emergency vehicles have been mobilized to provide help in the hardest hit communities. As of May 6, workers and volunteers have served 161,000 meals and snacks; provided 1,600 overnight stays in shelters; handed out more than 67,000 relief items; and provided 5,900 health and emotional support contacts.
HOW TO HELP Those who would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises can make a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. People can donate by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. These donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small.