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Red Cross Helps Tornado Survivors Cope With Tragedy

The physical scars that Sunday’s tornado inflicted on Joplin, Mo., are everywhere you look—but it’s the ones you can’t see that are the most painful.

What was once unimaginable is now reality: homes destroyed, livelihoods lost, loved ones missing or gone. Workers from the American Red Cross know that people not only need supplies to keep up their physical well-being, such as food and water, but they also need emotional support.

Christine Stockwell is a Registered Nurse working in the Red Cross shelter in Joplin. Although her primary goal is to treat the injured, she recognizes the huge emotional component to this disaster.

“We don’t just have wounded bodies,” she said. “We have wounded spirits.”

“About every 15 minutes or so, we have someone who needs an arm around, needs to talk, needs to cry, and I try to walk around and be observant for those things,” Stockwell said.

Stockwell described the need for stability amid a situation that is far from normal. “We give them continuity... each day they have three meals; each day they have snacks available; we’ve set up TVs, play areas for the children—just to give them a sense of normalcy, if that’s possible.”

“But ministering to them in an emotional and psychological way is probably one of the biggest things that we do. We listen,” she added.

As workers like Stockwell continue to help residents staying in shelters, Red Cross emergency response vehicles are also out in Joplin neighborhoods distributing meals; comfort items, including toothbrushes and soap; cleanup supplies such as coolers, rakes, tarps, gloves and trash bags; and even stuffed animals for the kids.

Health services staff at emergency aid stations in Joplin are also assessing people’s health needs and helping with items such as lost prescriptions and eyeglasses.

Joplin was spared from additional storms on Wednesday, but a tornado did touch down in Sedalia, Mo., damaging an estimated 100 homes. The Red Cross opened a shelter in the city, and is sending a response vehicle into the area today to provide food and water to residents. Red Cross workers are also traveling through neighborhoods in Oklahoma to help those affected by Tuesday night’s tornadoes.

This spring has brought destruction to a large swath of the country. Since March 31, the American Red Cross has launched 30 relief operations in 23 states to help people affected by tornadoes, floods and wildfires —

  • Serving more than 2.1 million meals and snacks;
  • Opening more than 220 shelters and providing 19,000 overnight stays;
  • Providing more than 47,000 mental health and health consultations;
  • Handing out more than 1.1 million relief items like toothbrushes and shampoo, tarps, coolers, rakes and other cleanup supplies; and
  • Deploying more than 9,400 trained disaster relief workers from all 50 states.

How You Can Help

The Red Cross estimates that it will spend as much as $41 million responding to the disasters that have affected the country since March 31, and to date, about $33.6 million has been raised in donations for these responses.

Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; you can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.