She was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Hiding behind her mother’s legs when i came to the door with boxes of food, the little girl was wearing nothing but a diaper. Maybe 2 years old. One of three children living in the small apartment with their mother, they’d been displaced by the tornado outbreak that knocked my city on its collective ass about eight weeks ago.
i’m not a fan of disaster porn pictures, but you can get an idea of what happened at this link, and some images from one neighborhood here. Over a dozen tornadoes blew across the western part of Ohio in a single night – some fairly small, knocking shingles off of barns in the country, but a couple large ones hitting population centers.
used to be a gas station
The biggest of the lot (with winds between 166-200 miles/hour) was on the ground for about 30 minutes, covering about 19 miles – and it hit very densely populated neighborhoods, including the apartment complex where this young woman and her children had lived.
Tornadoes are nearly perfect in their randomness – one side of a street demolished, the other having only a few limbs down. Some have moved on from the recovery support already – “Why didn’t they have renters insurance? Why can’t they get to the food bank?” Because they could barely afford rent! Because they don’t have a car, and are now living across town, away from family and friends who used to help with transportation.
Immediately after the storm, i hauled cases of water to anyone who needed it (as did many, many others in town). Food, snacks, diapers… someone called it the “Ratchet Red Cross – don’t wait for rescue, we’ve got to save ourselves!” After returning from the Canadia-land holiday, i found a small group of grass-roots warriors still responding to the evolving needs of the community – people who fell through the cracks.
Spending a few days a week working out of a donated warehouse, with no electricity and no lights, i began delivering food to people who couldn’t get to the food banks. More recently, my efforts have included moving overly abundant provisions (adult undergarments, toothpaste, toothbrushes) to other relief efforts who need what we’ve got. Sorting donations, throwing out expired food. Organizing. Renting a trailer and hauling furniture donations.
A few things i’ve learned along the way:
TornaDO: Ask what is needed TODAY! The supplies and needs ebb and flow. Yesterday it was canned meat, but today it’s cleaning supplies. Bring THAT.
TornaDON’T: Donate things you just want to get rid of… like that toilet repair kit, lawn sprinkler, the martini glasses, Christmas tree. Clothes? Ask first – but if you do donate clothing, make sure you don’t include used underwear, or fucking pantyhose. Please.
This donated cow – if someone hadn’t claimed her, she’d have gone home with me!
TornaDO: Offer transportation – either taking things to people, or people to things.
TornaDON’T: Offer transportation – and fail to show up.
TornaDO: Use the opportunity to ‘Kondo‘ your condo! Housewares, small appliances, dishes, pots and pans will ALWAYS be needed.
TornaDON’T: The bag of toys was a nice thought – but perhaps check to make sure there aren’t petrified cat turds in the bag before you drop it off…
Donated TI-30 calculator case/manual from the 1980’s. Without the calculator…
TornaDO: Hygiene items are a hot item – shampoo, deodorant, feminine products, shaving cream, razors? Great donations!
TornaDON’T: If you go to the trouble to package up individual hygiene bags? Please consider putting in more than two tampons… maybe just donate the box?
TornaDO: Graciously offer to assist the nice woman dropping off a carload of supplies at the warehouse!
TornaDON’T: Say “Can i give you a hand?” just as you notice she is missing one! Yeah. That was me… i caught myself in time, and managed to eek out “Can i give you a… help with that?” at the last minute. i was tired…
While i have moments of grumpiness, and i’ve come home pretty beat up some days, i’m encouraged by the number of people who are still working hard to help. But i keep thinking about that sleepy little girl, her entire world disrupted… Wondering how things are going to work out for her.
Suckers and a rose go home with those coming in for help…
These efforts are basically putting band-aids and boo-boo kisses on people who are suffering multiple organ failure…
For now, it’ll have to do. It