After 6 months of hard work, we’ve officially closed the Washington Tornado Relief Center. It’s a bittersweet feeling; while we’re thrilled to see people back on their feet, we’ll also miss all the wonderful volunteers and neighbors we’ve met. There’s too much to say about this experience for one post, so for now I’ll stick to the facts:
1. The WTRC was open from November 18th, 2013- May 10th, 2014.
2. During those 6 months we had countless volunteers (and by “countless” I mean, “we’re still counting them!”) who logged over 5000 hours of service time.
3. There were days when we had over 100 people come to the store for help.
4. We worked with many local (and not-so-local) organizations to find, receive, coordinate, and give out thousands of donations.
5. We filled 3 stores at the Washington Plaza in Sunnyland, plus 4 or 5 warehouses, with donations.
6. People from as far away as North Carolina and New Jersey traveled to the WTRC to volunteer with us.
7. AmeriCorps St. Louis came to Washington immediately after the tornadoes to take over the phone/volunteer coordination for us–and they were fantastic!
8. The Salvation Army and Red Cross brought hot food and drinks to us so we could feed our volunteers (and ourselves!) for several days. The Red Cross continued to bring us hot chocolate and coffee all through the record-breaking cold this winter.
9. There were lots of tears–at first, tears of sadness and shock; but then, tears of happiness and relief as people started to put their lives back together.
10. We celebrated 3 major holidays at the Center–Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. They might be some of the most memorable -and meaningful- holidays we’ll ever celebrate.
So, the WTRC is closed. We’re still helping to make sure the remaining donations (mostly water, perfect for the hot summer coming up) gets to those in need, but we’re no longer in Washington daily. The people we met, the stories we heard, and the volunteers who gave so much to help those in need will always stay with us, though. They’ve become a part of our program, a part of our community, and a part of our lives. And we’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to be part of their story. We’re sure, no matter what, they’ll stay Washington Strong!