In May 2013, a series of deadly tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma, leaving paths of destruction in the wake. While these communities are getting back on their feet two years later, the American Red Cross is still there – helping to prepare residents and build resilient communities that are stronger in the aftermath.
The road to recovery is a long, arduous journey that includes preparing for the next storm. From disaster education for kids to residential shelter programs that will protect families from future tornados, the Red Cross has an enduring investment in the safety of the affected communities.
Pillowcase Project Empowers Children
Since the 2013 tornadoes, Red Cross volunteers have visited schools to engage children on severe weather preparedness. Volunteers lead students in educational games and help them put together their own emergency kits through The Pillowcase Project, an educational program to teach children in grades 3 through 5 how to prepare for emergencies and help their loved ones get ready too.
As part of the project, each child receives a pillowcase they can decorate and are then given items like a glow stick, first aid kit, flashlight and their favorite toy to start their kit. Sponsored by Disney, The Pillowcase Project teaches tornado preparedness to children to enhance their understanding of tornadoes, how tornadoes act and empower kids to be prepared in the event of another tornado or other disaster.
Recently, during the March tornadoes in Oklahoma this year, the importance of The Pillowcase Project was seen when children who had attended the class were impacted by the storms. Parents and educators shared how valuable that training proved to be on Red Cross social media channels.
“While we were in the shelter today my daughter was quoting things she learned from you guys yesterday,” wrote one parent. “She was calm, a big difference from last year. What you do makes a difference. Thank you.”
“Thank you so much for coming to Winding Creek Elementary in Moore and preparing our students for emergencies,” wrote Principal Paula Gifford online. “I'm hearing wonderful stories about how our students stayed calm and followed the procedures they learned from Jennifer this week at school. I appreciate you so much! Moore kids were prepared with their pillow cases provided by you all!”
Storm Shelter Grants Provide Safety
Over the last year, the Red Cross has continued working with government and community partners to invest in storm shelters that will provide families with safer refuge when dangerous storms threaten their homes.
The number of storm shelters in Moore has tripled since the 2013 tornadoes, with an estimated one-third of homes in the town now having this crucial safety feature. As of April 27, 2015, the Red Cross has helped fund the construction of 2,656 shelters, including a $3.75 million grant to build residential shelters in Moore. To date, 1,504 shelters have already been installed in new or rebuilt homes around Moore. An additional $6.75 million grant is supporting the installation of storm shelters in other affected cities and counties throughout the region.
As these efforts continue, the Red Cross remains a vital community partner on the ground, helping residents recover from yesterday and prepare for tomorrow. Read the Two-Year Oklahoma Tornadoes Update.