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AmeriCorps Member Shares Oklahoma Recovery Experience

by Tess Hetzel

In the aftermath of the devastating tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, last week, the Corporation for National and Community Service is working closely with federal, state, and local officials to deploy AmeriCorps members to the region early Tuesday, May 21. As of Thursday, May 30, 96 AmeriCorps members had boots on the ground.

  • 10 AmeriCorps St. Louis
  • 10 Texas Conservation Corps
  • 9 AmeriCorps NCCC members from Denver
  • 60 members – 7 FEMA Corps teams
  • 2 AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works Legal Aids
  • 4 American Red Cross’s AmeriCorps National Preparedness and Response Corps
  • 1 AmeriCorps Member -- American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids: Together We Prepare AmeriCorps Program

Chris Newton, a member of the Emergency Response Team joined fellow AmeriCorps members in Central Oklahoma, to support disaster response and recovery efforts. Newton, originally from New Jersey, has been with the Texas Conservation Corps in January 2013. He shared his experience on the ground: 

Upon my arrival in Oklahoma, just three days after the tornadoes, I was assigned the task of operating a homeowner intake center and volunteer reception center at the Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) being run in the Little Axe Elementary School gymnasium. Along with fellow AmeriCorps members from AmeriCorps St. Louis, we have processed nearly 200 work orders from residents whose homes and property were damaged or destroyed by the tornadoes.

Meeting with affected residents one-on-one to collect detailed information about the immediate and long-term assistance that they need, we are able to ensure affected residents can directly  connect to the many organizations that have arrived in Oklahoma, ready to help. These groups offer services such as debris removal, tree work, tarping, temporary housing during the repairing/rebuilding process, and more. 

AmeriCorps members are laying the groundwork for the long-term recovery effort, ensuring that as residents move forward in rebuilding their homes and communities, they have the support of the voluntary agencies that will remain here for months and even years to come. Some of our partners include Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent De Paul, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Samaritan's Purse, Absentee Shawnee Tribe, local churches, and hundreds of unaffiliated volunteers.

Just today, I was fortunate enough to assist a Spanish-speaking survivor and her family. While the mother met with agencies offering assistance, the girls brought smiles to the faces of all they encountered. Because I was able to interpret for her, AmeriCorps was able to help this family begin their rebuilding process. 

National Service responds to many disasters across the nation, but each time, we witness the resilience and graciousness of the survivors we have the privilege of serving. 

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