Little Ax, Oklahoma, February 22, 2014 – It was nearly standing room only in the Little Ax Baptist Church meeting hall as more than one-hundred people packed in for dinner and a kit at the invitation of the American Red Cross. Every person sitting in the crowd had a personal story of the day that changed their life. The day a massive tornado ripped through their community, catching many unprepared.
“We came out here to make sure we had all the things that we did not have on May 19th, 2013, stated Shalan Pearson-Despain who lost her home in the tornado. “We were not ready for that day, we thought we were, but we weren’t and we want to make sure we are weather ready this year and being that the Red Cross has provided that for us is a blessing to this community.”
Dozens of Red Cross volunteers armed with preparedness H.O.M.E. kits provided one-on-one briefings with sixty households during the two-hour gathering. H.O.M.E. stands for Helping Oklahoman Manage Emergencies. The idea behind the kit is to ensure those affected by the storms not only have replacement items to keep them better prepared, but are presented with one-on-one tips to use the toolkit effectively.
Inside the kit, weather radios, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a Red Cross whistle, flashlight and educational literature about what to do if a disaster strikes.
“I’m excited to go home and get it ready and actually sit down with my kids and get this in their heads,” said Ms. Pearson-Despain. “I want them to know they’re a lot more secure than they were last year.”
“I am thrilled to death, I’m so tickled I don’t know how to act,” Linda Moore told the Red Cross after walking out with her preparedness bag.
63 year old Linda Moore survived the May 19th, 2013 tornado in a neighbor’s storm shelter. When she emerged her home was nearly gone, her only cedar chest of memories had vanished.
She said she came to the gathering with no idea she would be getting the preparedness tools and now it will never be far away. “I’m going to have it right by me so if I need to go I’ll have it ready, “ Moore said, “and because it’s just me and my animals, I’ll be more prepared.”
The Red Cross plans to deliver more preparedness kits to storm affected communities in the coming weeks.
The Red Cross is also working with four other partner agencies on long-term case management for individuals and families. For many, this could include assistance with transportation needs, help with home repairs and even security deposits on new housing. Other long-term needs could include medical and mental health care. All cases are different and are based on individual and family needs. The Red Cross will be working with the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and The Oklahoma United Methodist Church to make sure all needs are met. All of these agencies will be working in unison out of centers in El Reno, Moore and Shawnee to serve clients. Those needing assistance can call 1-866-477-7276.