Teams of volunteers from the Heartland Chapter of the American Red Cross are now in the Deep South, helping residents recover from last week’s massive tornado outbreak. One team from Omaha/Council Bluffs is in Little Rock, Arkansas, while chapter spokeswoman Danelle Schlegelmilch is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She calls the widespread damage “heartbreaking.”
“I’m seeing destruction like I’ve never seen it before,” Schlegelmilch says. “You try and prepare mentally before going on something like this but you just can’t. It looks like someone just took a giant lawn mower and mowed down a good chunk of Tuscaloosa. There’s damage to homes and businesses, major stores and restaurants. It’s mind-boggling.”
Schlegelmilch says more than 600 central Alabama residents spent the night in the Red Cross shelter a night ago. She says she’s very encouraged by the resilience of the people whose homes were flattened. “Even if they don’t have anything, as long as they have their loved ones, and you ask them, ‘How are you doing?’ and they say, ‘I’m blessed,'” she says.
“They’re more worried about their friends and neighbors than themselves a lot of the time. That’s just what touches my heart. They have nothing but they’re willing to give what they do have to each other. It’s very humbling, to say the least.” Last week’s storms left more than 300 people dead in six states in one of the worst tornado outbreaks in decades. Schlegelmilch says it’s easy for Iowans to help.
“All you have to do is go online to RedCross.org or text message “Red Cross” to 90999 and donate $10,” she says. “Being on the ground, seeing these people, it’s heartbreaking and any penny you can give will go a very long ways here.” Schlegelmilch says the Red Cross will be in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Little Rock for weeks to help tornado survivors get back on their feet.
The agency is providing food, shelter, clothing, medical care and more. It’s been a busy two weeks for Red Cross teams as they’ve responded to disasters in 25 states to help people affected by floods, tornadoes and wild fires.
See pictures of the tornado damage here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americanredcross/sets/72157626049807007/with/5684363900/>