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Okla. Residents Get Vital Services, Support at Red Cross Shelter

Essential Services
Whatever the reason people stopped by the shelter, there were shared smiles, hugs and tears.

As residents of Shawnee and Moore, Okla., know, recovering from a disaster and returning to normal life can be overwhelming, especially when families no longer have important personal items or access to services.

Moore Community Center, which initially opened as a Red Cross shelter immediately after the tornado hit, has worked closely with community agencies to provide tornado victims with important resources and services. This includes shelter, meals provided by area restaurants, health and mental health services, a “kid zone,” Safe and Well registration, bulk supplies, free eyeglass replacement, charging stations, and computer and Internet access.

When the tornado warnings rang out, Randy Blair and his family, residents of Moore, rushed to their cellar for safety. After the storm passed, they emerged to find that their home and all their belongings had been destroyed.

“My wife grabbed the jewelry and family photos, but that’s it,” said Blair. “When the tornado hit I didn’t think to grab my glasses. I’m a truck driver and need them for driving and reading maps.”

Blair found out he could get his glasses replaced at the Community Center. He walked in, went through a simple eye exam, picked out a pair of frames and was told he could pick up his new glasses within a few hours. Dean McGee Eye Institute stepped up to help fill this need in the community. They have provided more than 75 people with eye care services, including replacement of prescription glasses.

Juan Vazquez, another Moore resident, stopped by the Community Center to use the Internet to pay several bills. Vazquez was very appreciative of the Red Cross volunteer who helped him get on the computer and take care of these errands.

“I can usually do this at home, but I have no power to use my computer,” said Vazquez. “Paying my bills and getting these things done is the most important thing right now.”

The tornado that Vazquez referred to as "the animal" came within 10 yards of his house. He and his wife hid in the bathroom and survived unscathed, but were left without electricity and water, like many Moore residents.

Air Force Captain Rebecca Svab stopped by the Community Center seeking medical attention after she spent a day helping people clean up after the tornado. She had been exposed to fiberglass from house insulation while sifting through debris in one of the most devastated neighborhoods.

“I found some important, memorable items for people, like wedding rings and an autographed ball,” said Svab. “I wasn’t thinking about the harmful stuff that might be in the rubble, I was just trying to help people find their stuff.”

Michael Johnston, a registered nurse, used duct tape to carefully remove the fiberglass from Svab's neck and arms. Johnston, who worked in the ER at Moore Medical Center, helped provide medical attention at the Community Center after the hospital was destroyed by the tornado.

Many others have come to Moore Community Center to utilize the resources provided by the Red Cross and community agencies. Whatever the reason people stopped by the shelter, there were shared smiles, hugs and tears. Thanks to the support of volunteers, the center will remain open to aid Moore residents as the community rebuilds from the tornado—a community healing together one minute, one hour and one day at a time.

Tags: Oklahoma.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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