Devastation hit nearly a month ago in the Washington Area, a quick ten minutes from Peoria. That Sunday we all knew we would be called into the office, but we had no idea what this would entail. We had heard stories of AmeriCorps teams being part of the first responders to the Joplin and Moore Tornadoes in the past. Would that be us? Would be in the middle of the mess, picking up the pieces of people’s lives? Could we handle that? Our members are for the most part in schools, doing after school programs and tutoring. We were not disaster relief specialists and honestly, I don’t think emotionally ready for what we could have been asked to do. It was 8 AM Monday morning when members came in, current and past alike. We were ready, up for the challenge. We sorted everything we had in the basement that we could donate, hats, gloves,scarves, sleeping bags, hygiene items, and blankets. Then… We waited. We had to wait for the powers above us to give us the okay. So we waited, ate some McDonald’s… and then waited some more. We were almost disappointed! We were supposed to be there! Instead we were sitting in the office, eating McDonald’s, telling stories of how long we were without power, how windy it was, and how scared we all were for those who we knew who could have been effected.
Finally, we got the call. We were going to Washington and setting up a donation center. Not quite clean up, not quite right in the middle of it all, but the perfect spot for our loving and compassionate members who were in fact trained to take care of people. We headed to Washington and started sorting. We had tables and tables set up, Julie had helped take over for an exhausted Chamber of Commerce member who had be effected by the storm and was now in charge of donations, Natalie lead all of the sorting with some members, Andrew (an alum) photographed every bit of it, and Rebecca made phone calls. We knew that this banquet center wouldn’t last long as a donation center. We had trailer loads of things coming and there was no way that this could be what we needed it to be. Two days later, we moved. We went to an empty warehouse and filled the entire thing with shelves to put items on. Three empty stores became Donation Centers, and that was only the beginning.
Now, nearly a month later, we are still going strong. Three warehouses are filled to the ceilings with donations that are currently being sorted and then used to restock our shelves at Sunnyland Plaza. AmeriCorps has completely taken over donations and will be there for the long run. We were told to expect six months. We never ever would have guessed that we would be there that long, holding victims hands as they pick up what they need, hugging them as they cry, and reassuring them that we are there for them and that this was all for them. There have been some ups and downs and you’ll get that with anything like that. But we have truly seen the best of people and have been so blessed to be able to be a part of this.
This is a newspaper article all about our donation center, and although no members, nor Natalie were interviewed, member Brenton is pictured. For any information feel free to contact us here or on Facebook.
Fostering Transitions AmeriCorps (Facebook page)
AmeriCorps: Getting Things Done!