Oklahoma Strong

OKTShirt_DeckerDespite the devastation from the May tornadoes, the people in Oklahoma are showing incredible strength and hope during the recovery process. Vonnie Thomas and John Decker, American Red Cross Health Services volunteers, say both the tornado survivors and the volunteers responding to the disaster demonstrate positive teamwork during the ongoing recovery.

“It’ll be a long recovery, but people here are so resilient,” says Decker.

Weeks after the tornadoes hit Oklahoma, more than 1,600 Red Cross workers are helping people get back on their feet – providing shelter, food, relief supplies, health services and emotional comfort.  Thomas says volunteers have come from Florida, Georgia, Texas, Hawaii, Iowa, California, Illinois and a number of other states to help the tornado victims.

“Our outreach team finds families that have fallen through the cracks and need help with medical referrals,” Thomas explains. Since the tornadoes hit, the Red Cross has provided more than 20,000 health services and mental health contacts. “About 75 health services people have passed through, and they’re phenomenal. They’re working so hard and I can’t thank them enough.  It’s amazing teamwork.”

photo_car__deckerRed Cross disaster health services include:

-delivering medical equipment

-finding health resources in the community

-working with shelters to help people with functional needs

-providing transportation to people for their medical needs

– working with hospitals to contact families of hospitalized

-helping with medications

In addition, the Red Cross Safe and Well website is monitored to help communication between family members and friends to make sure missing victims are safe. “We’ve worked closely with Safe and Well looking for people who were missing,” says Thomas.  “We have only one person they haven’t been able to locate, which is good progress.”


The tornado victims also display immense strength and hope throughout the long recovery process. “I admire all of the people involved,” says Thomas. “The volunteers are giving 110%–they go above and beyond to help the victims. The victims are so strong and want to be so independent. They are trying to get out on their own, and that’s why the shelters only have a small number of people.  The families stay in tents or with friends in the area to maintain their independence.”

Decker says mental health teams are going into community to help people cope and get their story out. “It’s a great community,” Decker says.  “Some people are standing in front of their completely destroyed homes and are still extremely nice and pleasant.”

“It’s Oklahoma strong,” adds Thomas. “The people are phenomenal and inspiring.”

Reporting and story by Shannon Lewis, Communications Intern, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. Photos provided courtesy of John Decker.

Postcard From Moore, Oklahoma

Dear Red Cross in Minnesota,

DR225-13 Moore OK-3I’m in Oklahoma working with teams on Community Partnerships that connect with local and visiting agencies and organizations responding to the May tornadoes, including the one that hit Moore. We’ve found more than 300 contacts, from major corporations to families, that have “pop-up” sites responding to these disasters.

We’re operating out of a Multiple Agency Resource Center in Moore. It’s similar to FEMA Disaster Response Centers, but being operated by volunteer, non-government organizations.  Here, clients check-in with a Red Cross relief worker and then move from table to table to access recovery service referrals on site. The process works well. If anything, it’s slowed by the high volume of cases. More than 3500 families are impacted.

The Oklahoma Red Cross is well prepared with strong community support and presence. From what I can see, Red Cross disaster relief functions are going strong in all functions.

We’re expecting severe weather the rest of this week and have had to interrupt Red Cross work because of it early Tuesday and probably today. Being aware and prepared starts with each of us!

Pj Doyle

P.S. I’m including a photo of the disaster in Moore and a picture of me (left) with Becky Tsongen, who’s also a Red Cross community partners relief volunteer from Minnesota.

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