Here are a few photos from our time in Washington. I’ll be adding more as we find them!
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!
Hi, Natalie here. I want to post something important from the site Becca listed yesterday (http://www.illinois.gov/ready/Press/Pages/111713.aspx).
- DO NOT GO TO THE SCENE OF A DISASTER
- Due to the overwhelming response, there are far more volunteer offers than there are volunteer needs.
- The arrival of unexpected volunteers will interfere with response efforts.
- STAY SAFE by volunteering with a reputable agency!
- Volunteers will be needed most during the long-term recovery phase, which will last month/years.
- Please be patient and WAIT until relief agencies can train you and use your help.
Bolded emphasis mine. PLEASE remember that unexpected/unsolicited volunteers can often make things worse. We understand that everyone feels helpless and wants to do anything they can at a time like this to help, but it’s imperative that you wait until you’re contacted by a reputable agency to come out. Please don’t show up unannounced, and please don’t donate things that aren’t asked for. We spent hours yesterday evening going through bags of donated clothes, and while those will be very helpful for victims of this disaster, there were also many thing that won’t be helpful at all (for example, the many pairs of used underwear we had to sort through). There will be plenty to do, and work for everyone in the long term, so please be patient while we figure out where to place you. Thanks!
We have been posted to Washington, IL for full-time tornado recovery efforts. We will be at the donation center located at Countryside Banquet facility (659 School St.). We are asking that those who want to sign up to help go through the Washington Chamber of Commerce. Thanks!
As Becca said in yesterday’s post, our annual Keepsacks for Kids project is coming up quickly. Now that we’ve started some of our new members (and brought back a few of our old ones) we’re gearing up for this awesome event. Since Becca explained the project already, I’ll just add our request for donations and help with hygiene kits.
Ideally, our hygiene kits will be specialized by age and sex. Our wish list for each hygiene kit includes shampoo/conditioner, liquid body wash, razors and shaving cream for adults, deodorant, hair brush/comb, lotion, face/body wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, wash cloth or hand towel, bandages, antibiotic ointment, cotton balls, tissues, pads and tampons for adult women, and hand sanitizer. Since donations and money are scarce, we know that we should have realistic expectations. Our most-needed items are listed in the graphic above, but we’ll happily accept any donations that come our way. We ask that items be unopened or unused, especially if they are hotel-sized travel items. Things that are individually packaged are best, but items in bulk that can’t be separated are always useful for large families or agencies that cater to many people.
We’d love for you to be a part in our Keepsacks for Kids project. On behalf of the hundreds of people who will receive a warm blanket and a hygiene kit this winter, THANK YOU!
PeoriaCorps members and volunteers have signed up to help the American Red Cross Central Illinois disaster relief efforts. We’ll be in and around Peoria and the surrounding areas helping with emergency supplies, shelters, food, cleanup, transport, and anything else the Red Cross volunteers need.