Catholic Charities ready to help tornado, flood victims in Midwest
Catholic News Agency May 8, 2015
After a series of damaging tornadoes and flooding in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, a Catholic Charities affiliate said it is ready to provide long-term help. “People today are showing back up at their homes and finding out that there’s no roof, or that there’s just a foundation,” Sonny Wilkinson, senior director of mission advancement for Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City, told CNA May 7. “They don’t even know where to begin, it’s so overwhelming.” Oklahoma was hardest hit in the latest weather. Storms spawned over a dozen tornadoes and dropped over eight inches of rain in some communities across the state’s western and central regions beginning the evening of May 6. One woman died when a tornado shelter in Oklahoma City flooded. At least 12 people were injured and dozens of homes were destroyed, The Oklahoman newspaper reports. “There was flooding, there was wind, the raw emotion of it brought back memories of previous storms,” said Wilkinson. He said the storm reminded some people of the far more powerful storm which had produced the deadly tornado which struck Moore, Oklahoma in 2013. “The impact wasn’t as bad as it could have been, thankfully,” said Wilkinson, who credited community awareness in responding to the latest storm appropriately. While other agencies are engaged in immediate disaster response, Oklahoma City’s Catholic Charities is focused on preparing to help storm victims’ long-term recovery to help them in “getting back to normal.” Catholic Charities case managers will help them navigate insurance claims and unmet needs like financial, emotional and community support. Other states also suffered from the weather. In Nebraska, storms caused rainfall ranging from six to 10 inches. Several towns and parts of the city of Lincoln were evacuated. Tornados damaged homes and buildings, but there were no major injuries reported, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. In north-central Kansas, several homes and an ethanol plant suffered damage and as many as 150 cattle were killed, the Associated Press reports. Wilkinson said disaster response agencies in Oklahoma are still assessing needs. He said that Oklahomans often act self-reliant after suffering a disaster and sometimes are reluctant to accept aid. “The reality is they all need it. They just haven’t discovered all the different ways they were affected,” the Catholic Charities official said. “We’ll be the agency that stands with them in the next two years.” He encouraged people concerned about disaster victims to give cash donations to the charity of their choice.