CSS, local parish continue to help struggling Davidson tornado victims
DAVIDSON COUNTY — Three months after a deadly tornado tore through rural Davidson County, many of the families hurt by the storm continue struggling to recover.
Of the 50 families directly affected by the EF2 twister – which left a trail of destruction about 12 miles long and killed two people in the area Nov. 17, 2011 – 30 families have been served by the Catholic Social Services office in Winston-Salem. Of those cases, 14 remain open with the staff of Catholic Social Services, a member affiliate agency of Catholic Charities USA. Catholic Social Services received a $10,000 grant from Catholic Charities USA last November to help fund this emergency response effort in the tornado's aftermath.
"Some families may have only met with us for a week or two, other families need long-term help," said Diane Bullard, director of the Winston-Salem Catholic Social Services office. "Some of them just lost everything, others were dealing with life challenges before the storm and have simply been overwhelmed."
Pictured: Toni Messina, a recent Catholic Social Services Disaster Response trainee, stands in front of the Catholic Social Service agency's van in Winston-Salem. She is wearing some of the "Mobile Visibility" items provided by Catholic Charities USA and used by emergency responders to identify themselves during a crisis. Messina also serves as a parent educator for the Winston-Salem-based Hand to Hand program, partly funded by Catholic Social Services. (Annette Tenny, Catholic News Herald)
These families, Bullard explained, are being helped through "phase two" of the recovery effort.
During "phase one" of their emergency response effort, the Catholic Social Services staff helped people find new housing, medicines and household supplies. They also helped families apply for financial aid and services such as unemployment insurance and food stamps.
Agency staff also partnered with Our Lady of the Rosary Church nearby in Lexington, which offered space in the church for the agency's mental health counselor to use. This has enabled the tornado victims to seek help without having to travel to Winston-Salem, easily an hour's drive from the hardest-hit areas.
For the families whose cases are still open, "phase two" recovery deals with short-term and long-term aid, Bullard noted. Some victims might need help buying work clothes or shoes, while others might need assistance paying a utility bill or rent. Some might have a place to live but still need essential furniture items such as a kitchen table.
Often transportation and communication issues have a large impact on other challenges. Cell phones bills are frequently one of the last things to be paid or simply ignored when budgets are stretched to the limit, for example – yet this creates a lag time between need and contact with the agency. Many people lost their vehicles during the storm and have not been able to replace them. Given the rural area, that makes traveling to a grocery store or food pantry extremely difficult.
Catholic Social Services helps these families with food and gas vouchers but often turns to local parishes for help in providing volunteer transportation and with keeping the clients connected and in contact with the agency's support staff.
Volunteers from the local parishes are a great help, Bullard emphasized.
"We reach out to them, let them know what a client needs, that we might not be able to provide directly, and they put the word out," she said.
More often than not, the people of those parishes come through – for Catholic Social Services and for the families who depend so much on their help.
The local disaster response arm of Catholic Social Services that responds with staff assistance and other resources when a disaster strikes is a relatively new initiative in the Charlotte diocese. Diane Bullard and her Catholic Social Services colleague Joseph Purello had attended a week-long disaster response training offered by Catholic Charities USA last fall. They had barely returned from this training when the mid-November tornado struck in the Piedmont-Triad region. Just two months later, on Jan. 11, another tornado touched down in Rutherford and Burke counties. The following morning, Catholic Social Services staff contacted the nearby parishes to check on damage reports, offer assistance if needed, and share news of possible resources to help parishes assist any affected households.
— Annette Tenny, correspondent
How can you help?
To contribute to the Disaster Recovery program of Catholic Social Services, mail donations to: Catholic Social Services, P.O. Box 20185, Winston-Salem, NC 27120. Please put "Disaster Relief" in the memo section of the check.
Father Patrick Winslow: What can we learn from Pope Francis?It appears as if popes have something on their mind when first elected. One might call it a diagnosis and a proposed remedy for current ails. With Pope John Paul II, it was a message of hope to a world filled with fear. One can still hear him...
David Hains: Close that unhealthy health centerThe Gosnell abortion mill in Philadelphia and A Preferred Woman's Health Center in Charlotte have something in common: little regard for human life. It should come as no surprise that women are being mistreated in these facilities since...
Peggy Bowes: Honor thy mother: Devotions to Mary"We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor His Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor Him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son." — St. Louis de Montfort,...
Father Shawn O'Neal: In this debate, remember Church teaching on human rightsAs a means to develop a comprehensive plan to reform our nation's current immigration system, a group of senators has introduced legislation formally called the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013."...
Father Matthew Buettner: Radical ChristianityRecently, the Boston Marathon came to an abrupt end when two bombs exploded near the finish line. Three young people died in the explosion, including an 8-year-old boy who received his first Holy Communion just 11 months ago. Along with these...
The Poor Clares: Joy and sacrificeSt. Paul was a man passionate with zeal and consumed by love for God and desire for the salvation of souls. His actions and words were geared toward one purpose: the claiming of souls from the dominion of the devil, and the deceit used by him...
Brian Williams:The honest 411 on Vatican III recently had the opportunity to take a class about the Second Vatican Council offered through a diocesan adult education program. While much was covered within a relatively short span of four classes, one subject occupied much of our time...
LETTERS FROM OUR READERS
Vatican II called for post-conciliar liturgical adaptationsThe April 26 Catholic News Herald commentary entitled "The Honest 411 on Vatican II" discussed a participant's experience at an adult education series in the diocese. The course, "The 411 on...
Warrior saints are found throughout historyRegarding the April 26 letter criticizing St. Nicholas of Flue, I am disgusted that an American would insinuate that a soldier who distinguishes himself or herself in combat is not following...
Who would be worthy?In a letter in the April 26 Catholic News Herald, St. Nicholas of Flue was referred to as someone who "did not follow those teachings" of Christ because he defended the faith with his sword and...
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy