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AmeriCorps NCCC Teams Bring Relief to Tornado Devastated Areas

by Erika Prelow Roberts

Frelicia May and her family of 16 – a husband, sister, children, and grandchildren –remained at the American Red Cross shelter in Clinton, Mississippi, days after everyone else left.

Having previously lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, the return to a shelter stirred up painful memories for May and her family. After Katrina, the family drifted to Louisiana and Texas looking for a place to settle, but landed in Jackson, Mississippi, where they joined May’s sister.

The family was just beginning to feel at home in Jackson when the tornado struck. Surveying the destruction, May gathered what little she could salvage and went to her sister’s two-bedroom apartment. The sisters quickly realized that the arrangement was too cramped for comfort. So, the May family took refuge in the Clinton Red Cross shelter.

That’s where AmeriCorps NCCC Team Leader Moses Moua, 23, of Orlando and Michael Brown, 20, of Indianapolis met May, her family, and many others like them.

Moua and Brown have been staffing the American Red Cross shelter around the clock for almost a week, and are part of an AmeriCorps NCCC team that was on the ground less than 24-hours after tornados struck Clinton.

At the shelter, Moua and Brown have been feeding residents, distributing water and necessities, unloading 4,000 gallons of donated water, and staffing the shelter. Similar NCCC teams were deployed to other communities hit hard by tornados and severe weather.

A ray of light

The enthusiasm and can-do attitude of the volunteers is a ray of light and relief for local residents devastated by the recent storms. “We love them. They laugh and talk to us and treat us like family. Michael is really good with the kids,” said May.

“I knew exactly what to do when I got to this shelter because we had training on it,” said Brown. He said that being in NCCC has taught him a lot of skills and given him training that he didn’t think he would use. It has also taught him the power of giving back.

Brown graduated from Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy in Edinburgh, Indiana, with his GED before starting NCCC in July 2010. He plans to graduate from the program this month, serve a year with another service organization, then go to college.

Moua, who graduated from Hiram College with a bachelor’s degree in Biology, said that although Orlando receives its share of severe weather, he had never seen the kind of devastation he’s seen in Clinton.

“I will definitely keep volunteering after my year with NCCC, especially when there is a disaster. I see how badly people need the help,” said Moua.

This disaster deployment builds on the pilot training the 160-member Southern Region NCCC campus received earlier this year from the Alabama-Louisiana-Mississippi Division of the Salvation Army’s Southern Territory.

Through community partnerships, NCCC provides training in emergency shelter management, first aid, CPR, chain sawing, wildland firefighting, and other disaster management services that members can utilize to respond to disasters.

Erika Prelow Roberts is a Community Relations Specialist for the AmeriCops NCCC Southern Region Campus with the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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