Sunday morning, 5/29/11

The weather is lovely this morning.  The sun is shining, there is a light breeze, the grass is green and the humidity is perfect, for me.

It has been a short and long week, and there has been a lot to take in.  On Monday following the tornado, I went to the Volunteer Center at the MSSU campus.  There were  volunteers directing traffic in a crowded, slow-moving parking lot, and the person at the intersection showed me which building was being used for volunteer coordination.  Once in the building, there was a two page form to complete and sign, to be used for coordination of volunteers’ skills to areas of needs.  Then I went back home and waited anxiously, ready to do any of a number of tasks.  While I was waiting for a call, I checked with some organizations to see if therapy dogs would be useful.  A friend from Kansas City and another nearby in Kansas were ready and willing to bring their Newfs.  Surely there would be some people who would benefit from dog-hug therapy, and there were some very willing dog recipients on our team.

The forms for organizing volunteers didn’t include a checkbox that fit the purpose of therapy dog visits, and all paths for volunteers were directed to this center.  Of the local organizations that I spoke with directly, no opportunities were uncovered, so by Thursday, two of us decided to go on site and take the dogs with us to see if we could find a place to visit with any of the displaced residents.  We were directed to the building that housed those who had lost their homes and told that others with therapy dogs had visited.

People who were displaced by this storm were being housed in a large facility, and their pets were being kept in the basement floor of that facility.  They could get their pet and take it outside for walks or visits.  In another building not far from this one, lost pets were being housed by the local humane society so that those staying in the shelter could walk through and look for their lost pet(s).  What a remarkably compassionate way to reduce the level of trauma from such a devastating event!

We found an area where we could visit with residents at the shelter.  Many people, adults and children, residents or volunteer workers, came over for a visit.  As a pleasant surprise, one of the volunteers who had come over to visit was from the other side of the state and it turned out that she was a close friend of my best friend from grade school.

After we left the residents, we decided to try the volunteer desk again to see if we could sign up for a shift in the afternoon.  At the assignments desk, we found that there were some upcoming shifts in two areas where we could work.  We were led upstairs to a call center, but found that task was on hold while a system was being updated.  Since we had a couple of hours to wait, we decided to use that time to look for an elderly friend that Karyn had been concerned about.  We were able to locate his house and found him to be doing well.  We drove on through Main St., passing nearly incomprehensible destruction, with St. John’s Hospital, not ordinarily visible for other buildings, standing several blocks away in the background.  It is amazing that the hospital’s structure withstood so much force that most of the people there were able to be evacuated.  As our two hours were expiring, we drove back across 7th St., where more of the force of this storm was grippingly evident, where many large buildings were now in the rubble and heavily damaged cars were stacked upside down on debris or on other cars.  When we returned to our work area, the new system was still being installed, so we filled openings in another area.

Learning about volunteering in this situation has been a new experience. The coordination efforts are crucial, since much can be accomplished by the volunteers when their time is used productively.  Many if not most people came to volunteer immediately, only to be told that they would need to be scheduled for when there were shifts open, or that the young people with them would need to have  authorization signatures by a parent or guardian.  It was hard to see the expressions when people, some within a half hour or an hour’s drive, some having traveled a long distance and hoping to stay at a shelter with other volunteers, were troubled about what to do next.  Most of them thought about it for a moment then took on a demeanor of resolve with a plan to stay in the waiting area until someone gave them something to do.  The volunteer coordination team began to find ways to work people into task areas.  With a little creativity, most, if not all, of the volunteers who stayed had work assignments.  Within the following few days, each time you saw those people, they were beaming with joy, happy to be giving, to be doing something useful for someone else, in a tragic situation.

People who sincerely were driven to do something to help came in large numbers.  I don’t think that the volunteer organizers were prepared for the number of volunteers or the determination of those volunteers to serve in some capacity.  People whose own homes were in ruin were determinedly working to help others, bringing in their own equipment.  They showed up at the crew area in the mornings, not willing to be scheduled with delay.  People had come from neighboring and distant states.  Some came from Tuscaloosa following their own devastation.  A German lady who was on vacation in Arkansas, came and joined a debris clean-up crew.  Some Japanese people who were on vacation in New York left and drove to Joplin to work.  People came in good faith, bringing little resources, ready to dive into whatever task they could perform.  Their progress was astonishing to the volunteer coordinators.

Shifts for today were being limited due to the memorial service.  This morning, I took some time to go outside and lie down in the swing under the large Maple tree.  It was a good time to reflect, and to think about the purpose for meditation time.  When I was young, my Dad would come in during noon and lie down on the couch to take a nap.  He continued this through the rest of his life.  Reaching 96 or 97 (birth certificate destroyed in fire), I think he may have been onto something, realizing the health benefits of a form of mid-day meditation.  I can’t close my eyes and sleep during the day, but today, I can look up through the layers of green leaves toward the blue sky, relax and be thankful.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011
This entry was posted in Joplin Tornado 2011 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply