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As we approach the 1st anniversary of the March 2, 2012 tornadoes in southern Indiana, most look back and think, “That was a year ago, I’m glad that is over.”
A year seems to go by so quickly, it seems that it was just Christmas, and already we are approaching Lent with Easter just around the corner. But for the families whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the tornadoes of March 2, 2012, this has been the longest year of their lives. Many families are still living in campers, rentals, with family or friends, or in their storm-damaged, mold-infested houses.
Father Steve of St. Francis Xavier in Henryville was accurate when he stated in a recent report to his parishioners: “It is probably fair to say that we are about half way through our rebuilding efforts. Some big items such as the school are up and running. About half of the churches that were severely affected are up and running again. A number of businesses are back in business. Others are only in the process of beginning to rebuild.
As for homes, those with good insurance have their homes fully repaired or are in the process. The largest unmet needs are the underinsured and those without insurance. With the help of March2Recovery and other groups, some are back in their homes, but there are still probably a couple hundred homes throughout the affected area that are in need of repair and replacement. There are still a large number of barns and other agricultural issues that need to be addressed. There is plenty to do through at least the end of 2013.”
Catholic Charities and St. Francis are working closely with March 2 Recovery in Henryville, while CC and St. John’s in Osgood are working closely with the Holton Long Term Recovery Group and other groups in the areas to help rebuild these homes.
We tend to pick up those who just seem to fall through the cracks in the system. For instance, most groups require that a homeowner or renter must have filed for FEMA in order to receive additional help. We find that there are very often good reasons why certain populations such as the elderly or those with language barriers do not apply. Catholic Charities and our churches are there to help.
We are still very active in the entire disaster area from Holton to West Pekin, about an 85 mile stretch, or about a 2 hour drive from end to end, and expect to be until early 2014.
To date, we have touched the lives of 826 families, helping them with:
Rent & Utilities
Furniture, bed, appliances and household goods
Rent/temporary housing for home owners while repairs are done
Renters – relocations
Services – plumbers, electricians HVAC installation when there were no volunteers with these needed skills
Dumpsters, port-a-lets, storage, etc.
Medical & medical supplies
Spiritual & Emotional Counseling
Food, personal hygiene products
Donated vehicles to replace those lost in the storms
Fencing for farmers so that they could contain their livestock
Towns affected include these and the country sides in-between:
Phillip Diewert of the Holton Long Term Recovery group says: “We are at a standstill on homes because we cannot find anyone who can do drywall finishing. We're also going to need more plumbing and electrical help in the near-term. We need a mini-trackhoe and operator to trench water service and sewer service to each of the 8 new total rebuild houses (or a whole crew of people with shovels, patience, and strong backs). And then beginning around spring break, we'll need finish work completed – such as floors, painting walls, clean-up crews, landscaping, etc.”
The Henryville area, which covers the west side of the Disaster Area, will also need many of these same skills in volunteers.
A large need is for good, gently-used household goods that can be distributed as folks get back into their homes, but storage is our major problem. If anyone has access to a clean, dry, secure area that could be used to collect and distribute these goods, we would like to hear from you.
There are many stories I share about the families who have endured this past year and those who face yet another difficult year. Heartbreaking stories of those lost, including our latest loss, a gentleman in Holton who had not left the hospital since the storm and who passed away last week; stories of courage such as the young Mom who ran from the house to safety clinging to her infant son as their home exploded form the storm’s impact;
or of the elderly lady who fought with courage against her insurance company to try to have her home replaced, only to pass away before it could happen; the elderly couple out in the country who had no insurance and no resources and who simply resigned themselves to living with the badly damaged and leaking roof and the thick black mold that resulted – until a gentleman from a small local church knocked on their door and then called Catholic Charities Disaster Response.
There are wonderful stories of recovery and especially of the Volunteers who have helped; like the one about the Amish ladies who took a young mother shopping for household goods and baby items and sang Christmas “carols” (Jingle Bell Rock) in the isles of the store, the survivors that have returned to their homes and who now volunteer to help others, and then the great story about the he family-owned business out of Columbus, that was going to shut down operations during the week of Thanksgiving, but the owner wanted to continue to pay his employees, but didn't want to pay them to go home and sit on the couch, so they came down and volunteered and put up walls for 2 homes. Or our own Jack Koetter who overseen the total rebuilding of 2 homes while his own employees have volunteered their free time and talents to these projects.
But the best story of all is the story of HOPE that you all have given to these families through your generous gifts of donations and volunteer hours.
Jane Crady, Coordinator
Catholic Charities Disaster Preparedness & Response
Archdiocese of Indianapolis
Many of you have called to see what can be done to help the folks on the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy's destruction.
To make a cash donation, visit Catholic Charities USA
To Volunteer go to http://www.pointsoflight.org/
We are shipping a trailer of much needed supplies out to the East Coast on Monday November 19.
The trailer will be located at St. Pious X Catholic Church 7200 Sarto Dr., Indianapolis from today thru this coming Sunday (Nov 14 – Nov 18). The church narthex will be open for drop offs during the business day (8-4). We will have school students transfer the items to the truck at the end of each day. We will have the truck open during Saturday night mass (4:30-6:30) and again on Sunday morning during all the masses (until around noon). We will try to have someone man the truck for drop off during the day on Saturday also. Please call or email Jane at 317-642-7322 or email@example.com before making deliveries on Saturday prior to 4:30 PM.
Let’s fill up that truck to help those who cannot help themselves following Hurricane Sandy!
Here is a list of the items needed:
DO NOT SEND CLOTHING
Please do send: Canned and boxed food, Bottled water, Blankets, Sleeping bags. New Underwear (Men, Women & Children’s – all sizes), Diapers (baby and adult), Baby formula, Baby food, Other baby items, Wipes (baby & adult), Batteries, Flashlights, Cleaning supplies: mops, sponges, bottled Lysol, etc., Personal Hygiene products: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste/brushes, deodorant, etc.
If you cannot make it up to the truck and want to ship supplies directly, there are two community sites in Atlantic and Cape May counties of New Jersey (right where the hurricane hit). They are being operated by Catholic Charities of Camden. Here is the information for locations:
St. Gianna Baretta Molla
1417 New Road
Northfield, NJ 08225
Contact: Jennifer Dyer– 856-366-3251
Hours of Operations – 12p – 5p (every day and dependant on resources available)
St. Ann Church
300 Atlantic Avenue
Contact: Jennifer Dyer– 856-366-3251
Hours of Operations – 10a-3p (every day and dependant on resources available)
Thanks so much, and if you have any questions, please get in touch with me.
To volunteer on the East Coast, please go to the link above, but In the meantime, we still need tons of help right here in Indiana and I will stay to continue to work with the folks here. If you can put together a team that includes skilled volunteers to help here in Indiana, please let me know.
Thanks so much for your generosity, and
November 1, 2012 Update:
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is working to help rebuild and repair homes for several hundred families in the towns of Henryville, Marysville, Chelsea, Nabb, Borden, Pekin, Holton, Madison and Hanover Indiana from the March 2, 2012 tornadoes.
But the calendar is against us, as the winter months quickly approach.
Many of these families are now living in hotel rooms, campers or in cramped spaces with relatives or friends. Worse yet, some are still living in their damaged homes.
We desperately need skilled and semi-skilled Volunteers to help these families in Indiana.
Skills now needed include carpentry (rough and finish), roofing, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, insulation, dry wall (hang and finish), painting, flooring, landscaping.
Teams with at least one skilled person per every 4-5 unskilled volunteers work best, as someone needs to lead, and someone needs to hold up the other end of the board. However, smaller or larger teams are also welcome.
There is housing available in both Holton and Henryville for those who are willing to spend a few days in a disaster area where the work is very rewarding but exhausting, the accommodations are clean but not always comfortable (cots, air mattresses, showers in trailers, cooking facilities are available though), the time spent together with your partner Volunteers is invaluable, the hospitality is great and the gratitude is unlimited!
Southern Indiana needs your help now! Please put a team together and let us know when you would be available to come down.
Please email or call me with any questions that you may have at
We look forward to your trip and greatly appreciate your help in helping these families to get back into their homes before the winter is upon us!
Do you remember seeing the wreckage on television following the March 2, 2012, tornadoes in Southern Indiana? We saw school buses blown into buildings and houses and towns wiped off the map. We watched coverage of some buildings saved by the grace of God while the one next to it was obliterated. We heard stories of mothers saving their children, but losing their own lives and heroic acts to save neighbors trapped under the weight of their homes.
Following a natural disaster, there are two key phases that move disaster victims toward long-term stability. First, immediate recovery efforts focus on finding survivors, stabilizing buildings, and removing debris. During this phase, Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ focus was to ensure that residents of Southern Indiana were in safe housing, had basic necessities, and could access crisis counseling.
The second phase is long-term recovery. During this phase, the archdiocese’s disaster coordinator works with several other community groups to create systems and processes so that families affected by the tornado can rebuild and repair their homes or relocate to a new community. During this phase numerous pieces are brought together: construction experts, case management experts, and volunteer managers.
Following a disaster, a family will never be the same after what they’ve experienced. However by having a long-term plan and an advocate to help them manage that plan, families can rebuild their lives in a new home.
Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is being an advocate for these families in two key ways:
We anticipate working in Southern Indiana for up to two years because of these tornadoes. Please continue to keep these families and the valiant staff in your prayers.
We are often asked, "Do you still need help?" And the answer will be a resounding, "Yes" for at least the next year or two. We will have a presence in Southern Indiana's disaster relief until every homeowner is back in a permanent home. Right now we are estimating that 350 families will need some type of long-term assistance.
In the past seven weeks, Catholic Charities has arranged many trips for youth groups and trained volunteers. They have been picking up debris, rebuilding outbuildings (e.g. barns), and helping to rebuild some homes.
FEMA has been evaluating homes and providing awards for their repair or reconstruction. The rebuilding process for this area is just beginning. Even though it's been nearly two months since the tornados hit, there are still many families who are technically homeless because they are merely staying with friends or relatives for short periods of time and moving from place to place.
We need volunteers to help get these homeowners back into their homes or at least into their own housing. Here's how you can help:
This week we were able to move into the construction phase of long-term recovery. Property owners are starting to find out from FEMA what their awards are so we can move forward with planning. We need your help in four key ways:
Continue to donate money and gift cards (Lowes, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart) specifically for long-term recovery, which means suppplies for rebuilding homes. We are estimating that 50 percent of the property owners affected by the tornadoes will be uninsured or underinsured. They need your help!
The multiple communities and towns affected by the March 2 tornadoes continue to draft plans for long-term recovery. All parties involved are concerned about demolishing unsafe structures, assessing salvageable homes, and using donations in the best way possible to maximize their impact. Catholic Charities' disasters coordinators have been working with each group involved, including UMCOR, St. Vincent de Paul, independent churches, and other volunteer groups.
We'd love for your volunteer group to sign up for this upcoming summer. We've received many sign ups from individuals or those with young teenagers. While we appreciate everyone's offers to help, we have some guidelines in place to keep people safe and keep the rebuilding process moving forward. Our expertise is in rebuilding homes, so to that end we need groups of five or more with at least 1 trained adult (experience in home repair) per 4 untrained volunteers, ages 15 and older. When registering it is very helpful if you already have a date (or dates) scheduled and you can let us know upon sign up or let us know if your group could come with just a couple week's notice.
Continue to pray for all those affected today and for years to come.
Catholic Charities Disaster Response is continuing to evaluate homeowners' needs and renters' long-term housing needs through our Intake Centers. Anyone needing help rebuilding their home, securing long-term housing, or needing counseling services, please stop by our Intake Centers in Henryville, Osgood, or Holton. It's important to know that we will always serve anyone needing help, regardless of religion or background. Our goal is to rebuild community!
FEMA is now conducting assessment of properties and we hope that they can have funds to start rebuilding in less than two months. All disaster victims should get registered with FEMA as soon as possible.
We're already seeing a drop off in volunteer sign ups and we will need your help rebuilding homes! We would love to schedule volunteers for the months of June, July, and August. We need teams of people with a ratio of 1 skilled adult per 4 unskilled volunteers. The majority of the volunteers in a group need to be at least 16 years old. If they are 15 years old, they must be with their parent or youth group guardian at all times. Each volunteer must have a signed waiver to volunteer. For those volunteers staying overnight, we may be able to arrange free housing for you at a nearby retreat center. We have decided with our local pastors that we will not have volunteer projects on Sundays, in general.
If you would like to volunteer and make plans to come down this summer, register here. Please remember that this is a disaster zone and to schedule time to come serve with one of our disaster coordinators. Because of the nature of our services and rebuilding homes, we cannot accommodate unplanned volunteers.
We'd like to thank Fr. O'Keeffe and his parishioners from St. Alphonsus in Zionsville for dropping by the Catholic Center this week to deliver their second collection donation. The parish's generosity, and everyone's generosity, has been amazing! To date, we've received more than $260,000 in donations to help rebuild homes in Southern Indiana from parishes and groups across Indiana and the country.
The children from the affected areas are now returning to school in neighboring communities. Many elementary schools are using school space in the New Albany area and some high school and middle school students will be in Scottsburg. Click here for a story from the Indianapolis Star with more details
Click here for updated pictures of the clean up in Henryville, Osgood, and Marysville.
FEMA has declared major disasters in Clark, Jefferson, Ripley, Scott, Warrick, and Washington Counties. Individuals and households will be eligible to apply for assistance through FEMA. They should be at various sites in the area taking registrations within the week.
For disaster victims:
Currently these counties are transitioning from disaster response to disaster recovery, where Catholic Charities' expertise lies. Homeowners and renters should come to one of our intake centers if they need any help repairing property or securing long-term housing. We have set up intake centers at St. Francis Xavier in Henryville and are open Monday through Saturday. An intake center will be up and running in Holton on Tuesday, March 20th and operating Monday through Saturday.
With the FEMA disaster declaration, funds should be available to recipients in the next couple of months. Meanwhile Catholic Charities will be focused on:
We anticipate being able to start rebuilding homes beginning in May. However, with any disaster this timeline changes daily.
For those wishing to help:
Currently Henryville and many other affected towns have an abundance of many basic supplies. However, there are many items victims need that we can't predict and don't know they need until recovery and rebuilding starts on their property. The two best ways to help right now are through monetary donations and gift cards to Lowes, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart. We'd also love to have scheduled volunteers for weekend and weekday work beginning in mid-April! We may be able to activate volunteers trained to use chainsaws and small equipment very soon. Please sign up on the volunteer sign-up page so we can contact you.
Click here for some updated photos of clean up efforts right in the heart of Henryville. This week a lot of major debris is being cleared away, with particular help from the Department of Corrections. Roofs are tarped and those with insurance have been able to get contractors started on some repairs.
Here are a few photos and a video of Fr. Steve Shaftlein that I took while in Henryville, IN yesterday. It is just overwhelming - both the destruction and the generous response of Hoosiers and people from all over the country
- David Siler, Executive Director Catholic Charities
Click here to donate to the
Catholic Charities Tornado Relief Fund
Amidst the many tragic stories in the wake of the tornadoes in southern Indiana at the end of last week, there are incredible signs of hope and generosity. As the rebuilding soon begins, we have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the love of God as demonstrated by God’s Church.
Catholic Charities has been and will be for the long term working in southern Indiana to bring hope to those suffering both the physical and emotional damage inflicted by the recent storms. Jane Crady, our archdiocesan disaster coordinator has already been to Henryville and the surrounding communities to assess the damage and begin to find out how we can be of assistance.
As is the case following a natural disaster of this nature, the “first-responders” are plentiful and very capable of providing the necessary aid. Catholic Charity’s roll will be to pick up the work after the first-responders pull out of the area – usually after a couple of weeks. Through Jane’s coordination we will be able to activate a large network of trained volunteers to provide material supplies, clean-up, re-building expertise, case management and mental health counseling.
You may know that our archdiocesan parishes were asked by Bishop Coyne to take up a second collection this weekend. Donations to Catholic Charities for the work to come over the weeks and many months to come can also be made at www.archindy.org. There is a red banner at the top of our website homepage to direct visitors to our donation page. Please be assured that donations will be used very prudently by leveraging volunteer help and material donations.
Many individuals and volunteers will want to help with the clean-up and rebuilding, but it is too soon to send people into the area at this time. Very soon we will set up a page on our website where people can learn about volunteer needs and sign up to help. We will get that information out ASAP and post it here.
In the meantime, please join us in praying especially for those who lost loved ones and for strength for a sustained effort to demonstrate the love of Christ through the Church.