The Salvation Army Indiana Division's tornado relief response continued through the weekend after at least 17 confirmed tornadoes swept through that state on the evening of March 31.
Emergency Disaster Services teams deployed to Sullivan, Johnson, and Lake counties have been focused on immediate needs, such as food, hydration, and emotional and spiritual care, but are coordinating with local government and other organizations in preparation for long-term casework to help families get back on their feet. Those looking to support these disaster responses can give online at HelpSalvationArmy.org.
In these early days of clean-up, providing care to utility workers in all three of these counties has been an important piece of The Salvation Army's response.
"While our teams were careful to keep a safe distance from electric crews while they were working, they did end up serving work crews who saw them and approached our teams seeking hydration and snacks," shared Major Mike McKee, Divisional Director of Emergency Disaster Services. "Our firm policy is to never distract, interfere with, or approach work crews doing their often dangerous jobs. We serve everyone who recognizes us and comes seeking refreshment or a listening ear and emotional support."
In Johnson County, Majors Mike and Mary Thomas of The Salvation Army's Johnson County Red Shield Center have been on the front lines with their team. Over the weekend they were able to travel throughout the county in a mobile kitchen (FedEx canteen) to reach storm victims, utility workers, and emergency crews. They helped 700 individuals, providing 400 meals, 605 drinks, and 1,200 snacks. The unique Emotional & Spiritual Care (ESC) training that Salvation Army officers and volunteers receive also brings comfort and prayer to those who are despairing.
The Salvation Army is partnering with The United Way of Johnson County, Indiana Red Cross, and area churches to coordinate services to the community. They are also set up at the Greenwood Middle School shelter and will be out again today in a Salvation Army vehicle delivering assistance to affected neighborhoods. Many thanks go out to Pizza Hut in Franklin, Long's Donuts, and Rise'n Roll Bakery for donating food that could go out into the community.
Cash donations are much appreciated as they can be used to help families with larger needs. Donate online by visiting HelpSalvationArmy.org or texting the word HOOSIER to 24-365.
The FedEx EDS canteen was relocated to Sullivan County on Sunday so that The Salvation Army of Evansville's canteen in service on Saturday could return to its community in preparation of additional storms anticipated this week. New equipment is being sent to Sullivan County to assist with the large-scale response efforts there. More than 560 meals were delivered to residents and workers over the course of the weekend. Food is continuing to be prepared at First Christian Church and delivered via the EDS canteen. Domino's has also donated pizza to help with lunch today.
The Salvation Army in Sullivan County does not have the capacity to handle donations of goods at this time, but monetary donations are much needed. First Financial Bank has set up Salvation Army Red Kettles at all three bank branches in the county and are collecting donations for relief efforts. Case management will be vital in this community over the next several weeks and months, so the EDS team is preparing to work with residents to determine their long-term needs. This will begin as soon as the damage assessment report is available for the county.
The EDS team in Lake County, led by Capt. Bersabe Vera, Area Commander for The Salvation Army of Northwest Indiana, has focused its efforts on the cities of Merrillville and Gary, which were hardest hit by Friday's storms. The EDS canteen has been out o affected neighborhoods offering support and sustenance to residents and workers.
Additional assistance can be found at The Salvation Army Gary-Merrillville Corps Community Center, located at 4800 Harrison Street in Gary. We are scheduling households to come in for food and household goods from our pantry at that location and helping to get residents connected with other local assistance. Call 219.239.2426 for additional information.
For the latest updates, follow The Salvation Army Indiana Division's EDS team on Facebook at facebook.com/EmergencyDisasterServicesIndiana.
One hundred percent of monetary donations given to The Salvation Army Emergency Disasters Services is used for direct response in affected communities. To learn more about the EDS ministry and responses in the U.S. and around the globe, visit disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.