Salvation Army continues Midwest tornado relief

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A long-term case management center helps assess victims’ needs.

The Salvation Army is working to transition its Midwest tornado relief efforts to long-term recovery assistance while continuing service to thousands affected by severe weather in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Iowa that began Nov. 17.

Much of the impact in Central Illinois was centered on Washington, Ill. The F-4 tornado destroyed or damaged thousands of homes in Washington and nearby areas of Tazewell County. Volunteers from the Crossroads United Methodist Church opened the facility to the community, and began feeding others through the church kitchen. Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services volunteers worked with the church to help feed up to 3,000 displaced persons and first responders per day using five mobile canteens. The Salvation Army also offered on-site emotional and spiritual care training at the facility, upon the church’s request.

Major Evie Diaz, divisional commander of the Heartland Division in Central Illinois and Eastern Iowa, said the amount of damage she saw was unbelievable.

“It was as if houses had gone through a shredding machine,” Diaz said. “To have lost hundreds of homes in this community has an incredible impact on the community.”

The church was no more than a quarter-mile from facilities that had been decimated by the tornadoes, yet the church was left unscathed, according to Diaz.

The Salvation Army is still determining how to best meet the long-term needs of the tornadoes, but a plan is beginning to take shape.

“It looks like we’ll be providing assistance to those uninsured, underinsured, help with vehicle repair, furnishing resources and gift cards,” Diaz said.

The Heartland Division worked with the American Red Cross and other relief organizations to establish a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), which stayed open for nearly two weeks after the disaster. The MARC is no longer open but The Salvation Army is still working out of the church, facilitating individual case management.

“The tornadoes have truly pulled central Illinois together into a larger community, all working on helping the town recover and rebuild,” said Rich Draeger, assistant development director for The Salvation Army of Peoria, who also responded to Hurricane Katrina. “After surveying the damage, I could tell that a disaster of this magnitude in your own backyard is truly a different animal.”

Two days after the storms hit, the Illinois National Guard allowed residents back into their neighborhoods to begin sifting through their belongings to start the recovery process.

“Because of all of the donations we received from local restaurants and vendors, we were able to serve each meal for 18 cents each,” said Captain Jeff Carr of the Salvation Army of Peoria.

Another canteen was stationed for five days in the town of Brookport Ill., where 1,500 people suffered extensive damage with more than 200 homes damaged—nearly 100 of them completely destroyed.

The Salvation Army also made plastic tarps available to residents in and around Brookport who wished to cover damaged roofs and walls until permanent repairs could be made. The Home Depot Corporation and Walmart donated materials and food for The Salvation Army team in Brookport to distribute to victims. The Salvation Army also opened a shelter in Pekin, Ill., Carr said.

Washington, Ind., was also heavily damaged, and hundreds of meals were served for nearly a week after the tornado. Plans are in place to offer individual casework to survivors there as well.

Diaz said she was amazed by the resolve of survivors who had lost so much.

“I didn’t meet anyone mad or bitter,” Diaz said, “just people happy to be alive and grateful for our help.”


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