By Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
How many times have you heard the phrase, “it takes a village?” If you are a parent or caregiver in any capacity, then you know it to be true. Without the support of family, friends, educators and even sometimes strangers, you wouldn’t be able to handle it all on your own. The original phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child” is an old African proverb in support of the ideal way to raise a child in which everyone in the community helps positively shape and influence children’s’ growth.
However, we can see that “it takes a village” in all aspect of our lives, from large projects at work to moving furniture. And certainly some circumstances require more villagers than others. As is the case when an EF4 tornado ravishes your community.
By now, everyone should recognize those people wearing bright red vests responding after a disaster. The American Red Cross is one of the first organizations to have boots on the ground right after first responders have deemed a disaster area safe. However, when something so devastating and destructive happens like the 13-mile tornado through Garland and Rowlett, Texas on December 26, 2015, the Red Cross is not the only humanitarian and relief organization to show up ready for action.
Over 22 different groups aided the Red Cross’ relief effort in the week following the tornado. From local city service employees to global operations such as Islamic Relief, workers and volunteers from all over the United States lent a helping hand.
If you have never been a victim of a natural disaster, it is hard to imagine what it would feel like to lose everything you own in a matter of minutes, especially the day after Christmas when the kids barely had a chance to break in the new toys. When your home is laying in rubble, or even part rubble, where do you begin? These groups that partner with the Red Cross after a disaster are there offering support, food, chainsaws and crews to help alieve the overwhelming burden from victims who have to literally pick up the pieces.
One of these organizations is called Operation Blessing. Even after a week, there was still so much to do. Operation Blessing provides chainsaws and people willing to help clean up debris per FEMA regulations. Unless you have experienced a disaster before, you wouldn’t know that there are certain regulations to cleaning up and stacking debris up for proper pickup from FEMA after a tornado. On Saturday, Jan. 2, Operation Blessing sent out 15 teams consisting of 18-20 volunteers each to continue helping families clean up what was left.
Another group pivotal in clean up help is Islamic Relief USA. The organization, which has regional offices nationwide responded quickly, as the D.A.R.T Regional Coordinator Abdullah Shawky noted, “this was right in my backyard.” Islamic Relief USA has partnered with the Red Cross for five years and responded with them in Moore, Oklahoma, as well as in West, Texas. Fifty to sixty Islamic Relief USA volunteers showed up to form an assembly line of clean up and to distribute gift cards to families. During other disasters, Islamic Relief focuses on helping the Red Cross with assessments, run shelters and case work.
The city of Garland was on hand to answer questions from those affected like when city services would return or what the different red and yellow tags meant that people found on their homes. The city employee told us “I’m glad we’re not really great at doing this, because that means we’d be doing it all the time.” The employee was equally as pleased with the hopeful spirit of the victims he had met.
Central Market and In and Out Burger where on hand to provide snacks and hot meals to victims of the tornado, as well as for volunteers and relief workers. As a locally-owned company, Central Market showed up every day to provide free food.
In and Out Burger arrived without announcement with a large truck and several employees happy to provide the smallest of comforts- a burger, fries and a soda. Ray, the Division Manager of Dallas In and Out Burger said it was really the first time In and Out had a chance to respond to such a disaster. He said that making the community safer and stronger aligns with In and Out’s mission purpose statement. “It’s small, but I can give the community a hot meal,” Ray told us.
There were so many other groups that were out in full force providing aide and help in different capacities, including Mercy Chefs, Samaritans Purse, Goodness Outreach, Hope Worldwide and Humanity First. In fact, Humanity First was one of the first volunteer groups to arrive in the area and went door to door asking how they could help meet the needs of victims. Tariq Habibullah, of Humanity First said the international organization had a presence in Moore, Oklahoma, responded to Hurricane Sandy and served in Haiti. He said you hear so many heartbreaking stories every day, it motivates you to come back every morning to help. Humanity First also accepts in-kind donations.
All in all, the Garland Multi Agency Resource Center was host to a variety of community-local and global-organizations there to help:
The American Red Cross
Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Services Center
Mormon Helping Hands
Texas Department of Insurance
St. Vincent De Paul
I TC kin formation Technology Disaster Resource Center
VA Vet Center
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief
United Methodist Church Committee on Relief
City of Garland
City of Rowlett
All these organizations who form alliances with the Red Cross are truly dedicated to alleviating the suffering of people. These agencies listed all work closely together to organize and meet the needs of victims of disaster. It truly takes a village. We couldn’t do it without you!
To make a $10 donation to the Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999.