Salvation Army works to bring necessities to disaster survivors
by W. Brian Hale
May 16, 2011 | 2406 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the three weeks since the April 27 tornadoes tore through Walker County and devastated many residents’ homes and lives, the Salvation Army has been hard at work to provide emergency relief, support and care to those affected.

Arriving at the scene in the disaster-struck areas moments after the tornadoes hit, the organization has been a source of outreach and comfort for survivors whose lives have been touched by the crisis.

The Salvation Army did not start out to be a disaster organization. They began their work to save the souls of “down-and-outers.” Due to the needs of that same population during a disaster, they were drawn into service as a disaster response organization. However, prayer and saving souls has not been abandoned.

“On the first day of this operation we began with prayer for those affected and for ourselves that we could do what we needed to do as the hands and feet of Christ. As we coordinated church teams who were going out to clear debris and hand out water and supplies, our focus was to provide spiritual support,” said Lona Courington, director of the Salvation Army of Walker County.

“We don't always do everything we do perfectly. We want to do some training before the next disaster hits. But if there is one thing I am proud of is that we boldly point people to the source of strength and comfort in a time like this. And just like they do every day, our Salvation Army staff and volunteers are doing a great job of providing boxes of food and bags of clothing to a lot of people.”

Courington stated that the Salvation Army currently has a number of ways to assist survivors and those who have been affected, including:

• A $300 voucher to each family that received major damage to their homes or had their homes destroyed by the tornadoes. The voucher is good for anything in the Salvation Army’s store in downtown, the food bank or the furniture warehouse at 1620 10th Ave.

• Gift cards will be available for produce, dairy and meat items that are in low supply at the food bank.

• Volunteers can help anyone shop for what they need and can also deliver large items to a shopper’s residence when the address is available. Volunteers can also help survivors and those affected connect to other resources if the Salvation Army does not currently have the items that are needed in their service facilities.

Courington also said that the Salvation Army is still in need of donated items and volunteers to help out in relief and recovery operations.

“We have an ample amount of clothes right now — so our focus at this time is on self-sufficiency items, like kitchen sets, pots, pans, bakeware, small appliances — things that will get people up and running in a new home,” Courington said. “The need for non-perishable food is still great — like peanut butter, jelly, pasta dinners — those items go quickly even when people are out of power as it’s easy to prepare on a grill or on a stove. Linens, diapers and hygiene items are also still in demand. We have a great need of volunteers to help survivors out and plenty of opportunities to assist in other ways — to helping sort donated items and debris cleanup to personal support services, like helping people shop and contact other services.”

Dr. David Rowland, who is a member of the board of directors for the Salvation Army, weighed in on how the Salvation Army is helping affected residents after the disaster.

“We have had many tragic events in our county in the past, but in my long time as a resident I’ve never seen a disaster that has stricken so many communities and so many people,” Rowland said. “It is heartwarming how our citizens have respond so generously with food, funds, furnishings and clothing. Volunteers young and old alike from all walks of life have responded to the many tasks at hand. However, the severity of the tornadoes will be with us for many months. Our initial generosity and willingness to volunteer must not diminish. I’m especially grateful to the Salvation Army and other organizations for helping establish order out of the chaos — through their efforts, relief has reached victims in a fair and orderly manner.”

For information on how to donate or volunteer with the Salvation Army, call 221-7737.