Why Remember Disaster Survivors

Executive Director Catholic Charities of Southern MissouriWhen disaster strikes, we’re all riveted to the TV, internet and social media. But what happens later, after the initial disaster is over and the news media stops reporting? Maura Taylor says there’s a network of case workers from Catholic Charities and other organizations who continue to help the victims rebuild their lives. It takes years and thousands of volunteers and donations, but resources must continue if we are to help communities rebuild. We must not forget the survivors in the months and years that follow.
Less than a month after the Joplin, Missouri, tornado, Maura accepted her job as Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri. As she assumed responsibility for this dedicated organization with only two paid staff people, she was faced with the casualties of the worst reported tornado since NOAA first started recording in 1950. It was a category E5 tornado with 200 mph winds, ¾ of a mile across and on the ground for 6 miles. 153 people died and this small city that was the hub for a four-state region was ripped apart. Many survived in their bathtubs or closets as their houses crumbled around them.
Today, they are still rebuilding. But Maura speaks gratefully of the more than 23,000 volunteers who have combined their skilled and unskilled labor to repair and build homes. She stresses the importance of the network of Catholic Charities throughout the United States and how those from the East Coast reached out to Southern Missouri in May of 2011.
Now Southern Missouri is reaching out to the East Coast. When asked what the victims of Hurricane Sandy need most right now, Maura says, “Cash and gift cards.” She encourages people not to send clothing or goods. Send monetary donations to organizations like Catholic Charities so they can get exactly what they need to survive. In fact, she advises people not to go there to volunteer right now unless you are a trained disaster responder. Until the electricity is up, it’s not safe for anyone and when housing is scarce, every hotel room is needed for the survivors. If you want to help, the people of Joplin still need volunteers to help rebuild.
This conversation has a lot of advice and information about how Catholic Charities works to rebuild solid families through case management: helping them acquire housing, financial assistance and services to help families of every race, religion and ethnicity. Maura says, “Strong families build strong communities.”
Check out the Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri to read more stories and donate to help the victims of Joplin and Sandy www.CatholicCharitiesUSA.org or other natural disaster.

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