The American Red Cross is providing relief across multiple states after dozens of tornadoes swept through the South and Midwest on Friday.
On Sunday evening, Red Cross shelters were open in Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio for those hit by the tornadoes, and Red Cross emergency vehicles are now distributing meals in affected communities. In states that were hit earlier last week, the Red Cross is distributing relief and cleanup supplies.
Emotional support is also an important part of the relief effort. Red Cross mental health workers will be helping people cope as they begin to clean up the devastation and begin their recovery. Health workers will also be available to help them replace items such as lost medications and eyeglasses.
Picking up the Pieces in Henryville One of the people Red Cross workers met over the weekend was Joe Zollman of Henryville, Indiana. On Friday afternoon, he and his fiancé, his sister and her husband and their dog huddled in one corner of a bedroom, covered by a couple of pieces of plywood. They felt their house tear apart around them and one of the strongest tornadoes to ever hit the area wiped away their dreams in a few frightening seconds.
Miraculously, everyone survived—sore, dirty, with cuts and bruises—but all together and safe. They lost a couple of pets but counted their blessings as they searched the rubble that was their home for mementos of better days.
Red Cross workers met with Zollman and his family to offer comfort in their tragedy and outline the free services available to them through the Red Cross.Red Cross workers talk with Joe Zollman of Henryville, Ind., on March 4, 2012. Photo: Daniel Cima/American Red Cross. David May stands in front of a damaged home in West Liberty, Ky. Photo: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross.
Starting Over in West Liberty West Liberty, Kentucky, a small mountain town, was turned upside down when a powerful tornado hit on Friday. Walking around, checking in with affected families, it's clear that everybody knows someone whose life was changed that afternoon, including David May, who was scheduled to preach before the tornado hit.
"People said no one would come," said May. Four people showed up for services on Sunday morning and stood near what's left of West Liberty Christian Church. “The building is gone, but the church is still there," he said. Fortunately for May, he has a place to stay over the hill, an area that was spared from destruction.
But his childhood home, like that of many here, will not be habitable for a long time, if ever. It's only a few days into the recovery and many still have no idea what they can keep or rebuild. Even May, whose church recently donated a bus and supplies to ongoing earthquake recovery in Haiti, has a touch of hope that the homeland he loves and has lived in all his life will find a fresh start.
"I'd like to see us start over," he said. "Maybe we will."
The Red Cross will be there to help the residents of West Liberty and the many other towns hit by tornadoes in the past week as they begin the recovery process.
How You Can Help If you would like to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes and floods, you can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.