May 24, 2013

CWS, Churches Sending Emergency Supplies for Tornado Survivors

Alertnet: Taylor Tennyson in Oklahoma
Resident Taylor Tennyson sits in the front yard of her family home which was left devastated by a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, in the outskirts of Oklahoma City. Photo: REUTERS/Adrees Latif courtesy

For CWS Great Plains Assistant Regional Director Rebekah Belase, this past week’s devastating tornados struck very close to home.  Belase commutes to her office in Topeka, Kansas, from her home in Stillwater, Okla. 

Stillwater is about a 90-minute drive from Moore.  It feels even closer – “I have quite a few friends from college who live in Moore and Norman,” she said.  “I have friends who lost family members and homes.  I have friends whose houses are still standing but not liveable, filled with debris and mud.  They are feeling overwhelmed by everything, and they are just trying to work through everything.”

Belase said friend after friend is telling her, “To know you are going to be there and the agencies that help us are going to be there for me in the weeks and months ahead, that’s what I need.”  She assures her friends that indeed, CWS is going to “be there” for them for the long haul, until their recovery is complete.

There are 1,500 CWS Hygiene Kits, 300 CWS School Kits, 300 CWS Blankets, 210 CWS Baby Kits and 185 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets on the way to Oklahoma for distribution to tornado survivors, especially in Moore and Shawnee, Okla.  Southern Hills Christian Church in Edmond, Okla., has agreed to serve as a temporary storage depot until CWS can determine the best way to distribute the goods to the people most in need.

Belase said area churches started calling her with offers of help Monday night already, right after the storm ravaged Moore.

“People were already responding to the need.  With many natural disasters, churches are in the forefront leading things.  They are doing that here, across denominational lines.  People have already been gracious and generous, pouring out support in any way they can.”

Churches near and far are collecting money and putting together CWS Kits.  “People in my network from Kansas and Missouri have been texting me to say, ‘Let people there know that we are thinking of them, they are not in this by themselves,” Belase said.  “The people and the congregations we are in contact with trust us.  They support CROP Hunger Walks and Blankets+.  We are a trusted name.”

Barry Shade of Olathe, Kansas, CWS Associate Director for Domestic Disaster Response, emphasized that the most significant humanitarian donation that an individual can make - in this case for tornado survivors - is cash, which enables affected communities that are closest to the disaster to purchase and distribute necessary supplies locally.  Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. (REF: 2013 Tornadoes, Appeal #627-Y) or made online.

Once the initial emergency is over, CWS will support long-term recovery with grants, training and expertise.  “After people’s immediate needs are met, we are there for the long term.  We are there to help them through the next months or years or however long it takes," he said.

In addition to requests for cash donations, the agency is appealing to congregations and groups to assemble and send kits containing emergency supplies, such as hygiene items, cleanup buckets and school supplies, to CWS so that they can be distributed.  The kits can be assembled from ordinary household items (