As clean-up continues in communities hit hard by last week’s tornadoes, the American Red Cross is offering shelter, food and relief supplies to help residents while also providing emotional support in the face of the tremendous loss.
In just the past week, more than 500 trained Red Cross disaster workers have sheltered hundreds of people displaced by tornadoes across 11 states; served more than 42,000 meals and snacks; and handed out nearly 14,000 relief items.
Sifting Through Debris
“I can hardly believe what Mother Nature can do,” said Lloyd Evans of Henryville, Indiana. His home was held down by a large oak tree that had fallen through the roof, keeping tornado winds from tearing his home from its foundation.
In affected neighborhoods, emergency response vehicles are providing cleanup kits with items such as shovels, rakes, trash bags and work gloves. Red Cross disaster workers are also providing comfort kits that help replace what many have lost - the everyday essentials such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, comb, razor and more.
“The Red Cross is always there when these things happen…they are always there,” Lloyd’s wife Beverly added. In 1992, the Evans family was also assisted by the Red Cross when they lost everything to a flood.
In Harrisburg, Illinois, the town hit hardest by the Leap Day tornado, casework teams are already going door-to-door to help. In the days ahead, Red Cross caseworkers will also be meeting one-one-one with disaster victims throughout communities affected by last week’s tornadoes to provide access to resources and tools to support the recovery process, and in some cases, the means to help replace essential items like clothing and household goods.
The recovery process for the thousands affected is not only the physical efforts – sifting through the wreckage of splintered wood and mangled metal - but the emotional loss of belongings, of a home, and in some cases, of a loved one.
When disasters like tornadoes strike, the Red Cross also deploys mental health specialists to help individuals and families cope with the devastation.Lloyd and Beverly Evans stand in front of their tornado damaged home with Red Cross worker Tammie Pech in Henryville, Indiana. “We already lost our home once to flooding. Now we lose it to a tornado. I am just glad that we are both safe, we can rebuild the house,” said Lloyd Evans. Red Cross disaster worker reaches out to a resident as she picks through the debris that was once her home.
Coping With Loss
“We all care about each other,” said Delight Veignier, a disaster mental health specialist with the Red Cross in Henryville, Indiana who stressed the importance of emotional support. “Let them know you care …We need to know that other people care about us. We need to know that ‘I touched you’. You felt that, didn’t you? That’s what we need.”
The Red Cross will continue to reach out to residents in communities like Henryville, Indiana to help provide relief supplies and emotional support as the recovery process begins.
As people begin to deal with the aftermath of the tornadoes, the Red Cross reminds them to return to their neighborhood only when officials say it is safe to do so. They should also:
- Stay out of damaged buildings. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and sturdy shoes.
- Avoid fallen power lines or broken gas lines - immediately report them to the utility companies.
- If someone smells gas or hears a hissing noise, they should open a window, get everyone out of the building immediately and call the gas company or fire department.
- Use flashlights, not candles when examining buildings.
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.