On the heels of extreme spring weather bringing devastating storm and tornado damage to the southern U.S., Indiana experienced its own round of threatening storms last week. Though the Hoosier state suffered no life threatening injuries or deaths, confirmed tornado touchdowns occurred in several areas southeast of Indianapolis during the late afternoon and evening hours of Wednesday, May 25 causing structural and property damage. The Salvation Army and its Emergency Disaster Service (EDS) responded immediately with compassion, food and hydration to the areas of Greensburg, Columbus, Bloomington and Bedford.

In central Indiana, there were six tornadoes – an EF1 near Bloomington; an EF2 east of Bedford, in Lawrence County; two EF2s in Greensburg, in Decatur County; an EF0 just north of Morristown, in northeast Shelby County; and an EF1 just southwest of Cecil Harden Lake, in Parke County, in addition to six twisters in several southern counties (National Weather Service).

As word spread Wednesday evening, a team was prepared to travel in the early morning hours to assess the damage and need for further assistance to residents in Greensburg and Bedford. Even as the storms were continuing to make their way out of Indiana, Capt. Alan Sladek  – an officer at our Columbus Corps, was out and around town trying to find out how he could help in his community. Some power outage was reported but resolved within a day or two. Capt. Sladek was asked at the onset by the Columbus Fire Dept. to serve as their chaplain, should there be a need. All Salvation Army officers are trained, licenses ministers – able to provide emotional and spiritual care in the aftermath of disasters upon request.

In Bedford, 2 canteens serviced the area Wednesday night by driving through affected neighborhoods. 250 meals with snacks and beverages were served even during this early stage.

Decatur County was hardest hit and the town of Greensburg suffered wide-spread power outages. Those residents were expected to be without power into early this week. EDS volunteers Annie Yelverton and Bill Schafer worked the canteen in Greensburg and served an estimated 40o meals with beverages on Thursday.

Our EDS team consists of trained volunteers, always standing by ready to assist during disasters – both locally and nationwide. Classes are offered throughout the year at our EDS warehouse for those interested in serving from the canteen or assisting the team in other ways. Our EDS response to city incidents is always in close coordination with government agencies and provides the following:

  • Food service
  • Hydration service
  • Emergency shelter
  • Cleanup and restoration
  • Donations management
  • Spiritual and emotional care
  • Disaster social services
  • Emergency communications (SATERN)

As food began to run out on Friday and a call for help went out, a few generous corporate partners joined forces with us. Kentucky Fried Chicken at 1906 N. Lincoln Rd. in Greensburg provided The Salvation Army with 300 hot meals on Sunday evening. These folks took time out of a busy holiday weekend to help us help their neighbors. Several other businesses stepped up to make sure tornado victims had plenty of food. Marsh Supermarkets and Arby’s also pitched in to fill the need and feed nearly 600 people.

Financial assistance is another component of our EDS response. Because of public support through donations, The Salvation Army is able to give families the help they desperately need when alternative shelter is necessary, employment is interrupted and other essentials are lost in the storm. Gift cards are provided for eligible families to shop for groceries and basic supplies.

In the words of one Greensburg resident, what this support means to families affected by the storms:

On Wednesday our small town was hit with bad storms and a possible F1tornado. Although from the looks of it our house suffered lots of damage and we lost power. We felt blessed to only have structural damage and lost our cold food but my family walked away from the storm unharmed and safe. This is a very stressful time for my family. On. Saturday two women in red salvation army t shirts walked through our damaged neighborhood and knocked on our door. They asked us some questions and were very nice. They gave us wal mart gift cards for our loss. We thanked them and they left. Words cannot even begin to describe the feelings they left us with. We are so thankful and blessed to have an organization like the Salvation Army watching over us. It was not the value of the gift cards that we are so grateful for but the gesture that was done. It was nice to see there was some one there willing to help us and be there for us.

So thank you Salvation Army for things you do. You have touched our lives!We do not know the names of the two ladies that came to our door but whoever they are we thank them for giving their time in helping families like ours and blessing our small town with their BIG hearts!

Again thank you Salvation army!

Sasha, Savannah and Cory

We extend a special thank you to the businesses, individuals, staff and volunteers who tirelessly served the communities of Bedford, Columbus and Greensburg in the aftermath of spring tornadoes in Indiana last week and throughout the weekend. Thank you for taking time away from your families and giving of yourself to support families in need. And a big thank you to our donors who make it possible to provide help and hope in times like these!

To make a $10 donation towards The Salvation Army’s assistance for families in Indiana affected by last week’s storms, text the word HOOSIER to 80888. Donations can also be made online at www.salvationarmyindiana.org by putting “Indiana tornado” as the designation.