A Red Cross worker from central Iowa is in Tennessee, helping residents recover from last week’s killer tornadoes, some of the worst to hit the U.S. in decades. Jean Klosterman, of St. Anthony, is on staff at the Iowa Rivers chapter in Marshalltown.
This is the first national disaster to which Klosterman has been assigned and she’s finding it to be a challenging chore, especially when she encounters entire neighborhoods that were ruined by the massive twisters. Klosterman says: "Here are all these people. The trees are gone. It’s completely devastated. The remaining homes are ravaged. These people are working and cleaning up. One man comes up to me and he says, "How do you do this? How do you get up in the morning and start all over again?" What do you say to someone like that?"
Klosterman says she’s learning to find the words to help reassure people that it -is- possible to carry on and rebuild, even when the situation looks so bleak. Klosterman says, "When people lose everything, there are two things they want: food and someone to talk to. Those are two really vital comfort needs that people in situations like this have to have."
She’s based for the next week or so in the town of Gallatin, Tennessee. Last week’s tornadoes killed nearly 60 people in several southern states and demolished many dozens of homes. Klosterman is among a number of Iowans assigned to the disaster, including six case workers from the Red Cross’ Sioux City chapter.
There are 18 of the agency’s emergency response vehicles, or ERVs, in Tennessee — and they’ve served more than 17-thousand meals already. Klosterman says they’re also distributing all sorts of goods that people need to start rebuilding their lives.
Those items include water, personal care products, pre-packaged foods, baby items and other children’s items — more than 11-thousand bulk items have been distributed so far to the storm victims in Tennessee. Iowans who would like to offer financial help can contact their local Red Cross chapter or call 800-Help-Now or visit the Red Cross website .