Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 9-Meeting Needs at the Point of Need

Today, I met a wonderful lady at the Little Axe Multi-Agency Resource Center. I have been doing emergency disaster assistance casework. I asked her if I could share her story.

May 19th was a special, but ordinary day for her family. Her husband was in Shawnee with the grandmother getting ready for the birthday party for their 16-year old. While they were away from their home, disaster struck! A friend called her from a storm cellar and told her that everything was gone!

Path of May 19 & 20 2013 Oklahoma Tornadoes

Her husband tried for two days to get back to the site of their home but was not allowed. When they finally got to the site, they saw that everything was gone. It was a total loss!

Newalla, OK is a small rural community in east Oklahoma County, south of Oklahoma City and near Norman. Sandy has lived on that property for 14 years. Each and every one of the five children was born and raised in that home. She has lived in this area since the 4th grade. This was her home!

She said that when she returned she was horrified. Everything that she knew and everything that she owned was takes away but the storm! They were worried for their pets. The Bibb family has four dogs, a cat, and a bird. Fortunately, the dogs and cat have been located, but all they could find of the bird was the smashed cage.

What makes this family’s situation even worse is that the danger is not over!Right now, they are not in danger of tornadoes taking whatever is left. Their fear right now is the looters that have been going over their property taking whatever they pleased. A local church brought them some tents, cots and toys for their children. When they returned, the only thing left were a few toys!

The family is trying to make the best of it and staying out on their property. Their three-year old has not returned to the site because their is still broken glass and dangerous debris.

“I don’t have a home. Tornado came and ‘blewed’ it away!” – three-year old disaster survivor

The family has been working on clearing their property. They have been hesitant about allowing groups to help because they are unsure of their intentions.

The three-year old is still maintaining a good outlook on the situation. If you ask her about going home, she will look at you and say with a smile, “I don’t have a home. Tornado came and ‘blewed’ it away!”

When I asked this lady if I could share her story, she said that I could, but she began to tear up a little!I asked her what she was feeling and she said this:

“I just want a home for my family! A nice place for them to live!”

This family has been working with FEMA to make that happen. The Salvation Army was able to offer her financial assistance to help her family with their emergency needs. She was extremely grateful and thanked me over and over.

Although she declined to have her picture, I wish I could show you the look of resilience in her face. After meeting her, I am beginning to understand what #OklahomaStrong really means!

We had prayer together before she left for which she was very grateful for! She said that was one of the first times that someone offered to pray with her during this experience. She said that prayer was the best thing! I agree!

#PrayForOklahoma

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 8-Big Storms, Small Towns #PrayForOklahoma

It has been all over the media! Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms all over the central Oklahoma area have been causing some major damage and have even claimed lives! The EF-5 tornado that came through Newcastle and Moore was highly destructive. The recent tornado through El Reno has now been labeled as an EF-5 as well being called the widest tornado on the planet.While the tornado from Moore has captured the hearts of the people due to the increased media attention, there were smaller towns that were deeply affected by these natural disasters.

Having been sent out by the Incident Command, I have spent the last five days in places like Shawnee (Pottawatomie County), Carney (Lincoln County), and Little Axe (Cleveland County). While the May 19th storm may not have been as big as the May 20 or 31, the impact on these smaller communities is still great! Little Axe is more than 25 minutes outside of Norman. The MARC (multi-agency resource center) is located at the local elementary school. Relief workers and responders are having to drive in from Oklahoma City and Norman to provide relief and assistance.

With more significant weather coming into this area this week, these people are desperately in need of relief and safety!

Prayer for the people of Oklahoma, all of the the people of Oklahoma!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 6-The MARC of a Good Partnership

Today I served for the third day in the MARC in Shawnee, OK. The term MARC stands for Multi-Agency Resource Center. Sponsored and hosted by the American Red Cross, the MARC is a wonderful opportunity and place for many agencies to come together. Because of the stream-lined intake process, all of the agencies who participate can get clients through the process of casework more efficiently. The MARC here in Shawnee assists clients through this experience and helps them to begin to rebuild their lives. serving in Oklahoma.

The process here starts with the American Red Cross Red Line. The Red Line is staffed by highly trained Red Cross workers who help clients to record who they are and what happened to them. After the clients are evaluated and assisted by the Red Line, they are escorted by an ambassador through a quick medical check. Following the medical check, the client is escorted into the Resource Room where all of the partner agencies are present at various tables.

Here is a list of the agencies who have a presence at the Shawnee MARC:

  • The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services
  • Department of Human Services
  • Catholic Charities
  • Red Cross Mental Health Assessment Team
  • Social Security Administration
  • Disabled American Veterans
  • Americorps
  • Christian Aid Ministries
  • Goodwill
  • Church of the Latter-Day Saints Disaster Services
  • The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Relief
  • Oklahoma Insurance
  • Legal Aid Services
  • Oklahoma Health Care Authority
  • Chickasaw Nation Health System
  • Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief

All of these agencies are offering a variety of services to help the residents begin the long process of recovery.

The MARC is a great example of agencies coming together for a common cause and making a difference in the lives of people. These people find themselves at one of the toughest moments of their lives. They have had most everything taken from them and their homes and lives bared for a national audience. These agencies come together to give them some relief and help to restore that dignity in a safe and secure environment.

“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV).

Soli Deo Gloria!

Day 3 & 4 of Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Response – Wilkes-Barre, PA Area Flooding

We are now into an interesting time in the emergency disaster services plan.  Our original response to the flooding in this area has been feeding.  We have begun to supplement that feeding program with cleanup kits, bags of ice, snacks, and bottled water.

As the numbers of people requiring mobile feeding have declined, we are now moving from the response to recovery phase of a disaster response.  The Incident Command team has been busy today preparing S.A.F.A.C.  S.A.F.A.C. is The Salvation Army Flood Assistance Center.

The Salvation Army Flood Assistance Center is being designed to offer families more intense social services than our normally offered at a corps (church).  We are looking at providing food boxes, clothing vouchers, and even some form of financial assistance in an effort to relieve the trauma that has affected this area.

Lt. Billie Powell from LaGrange, GA will be leading the caseworkers in providing this assistance to affected families and individuals.  Every care is made to not increase the level of distress a client has already experienced.  We are also taking many safeguards to protect client’s personal information and dignity.

The Salvation Army is utilizing some of the same procedures that is uses across the nation is creating a warm and welcoming environment for people to receive the assistance that they need.  The Planning and Operations team have provided a kids’ activity center and refreshment area.

Captain Todd Mason has been assigned to Incident Command as the Planning Chief.  One of Captain Mason’s responsibilities is the design and implementation of the disaster assistance center.

The Planning Chief works and develops the future plan of service and demobilization strategy of The Salvation Army.

Captain Mason is the administrator of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of Augusta, GA.  Captain Mason is an experienced field officer who has served on 16 disaster responses.

While the Incident Command staff plays a vital role in the overall efforts of a disaster response, volunteers are the lifeblood of any service.  Below are two quick interview with a volunteer, Donald Rousch, and employee responder, Ali Brunner.

Disaster teams and staff also like to have fun!  The following video, featuring Lt. Dan Nelson (Danville, KY), gives a glimpse into his mind.  We asked Lt. Nelson what he did all day!