Sullivan fire 2-27-14 Jim Avelis Tribune-Star 01

The Salvation Army’s emergency shelter at Central Elementary School in Sullivan, IN (photo courtesy Jim Avelis at the Tribune-Star)

On February 27 fire swept through a fifth-story apartment in the Sunrise Towers senior complex in Sullivan, Indiana. Firefighters struggled to rescue residents, especially those on the smoke-filled upper floors of the seven-story building. Once out, survivors found themselves in the bitter cold without warm clothing, medications, personal items or a place to go.

That’s where The Salvation Army’s network of trained Emergency Disaster Services volunteers stepped in. Sullivan County may not have a Salvation Army Corps Community Center of its own, but it does have a great Advisory Council and many busy volunteers who work to provide Salvation Army services to those in need.

While more than a dozen Sunrise Towers residents headed to the local hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, the remainder of the 120 survivors were bussed to Sullivan High School. They then came to Central Elementary School, where The Salvation Army had quickly set up an emergency shelter. Sixty residents stayed for food and hydration while volunteers helped to connect them with family members and friends who could give them a place to stay.

While food, blankets and cots were a welcomed sight, The Salvation Army also provided spiritual and emotional support in the face of a tremendous loss. Bruce Thompson, a fellow Sunrise Towers resident, had not survived the blaze. For many of his friends, having the support of other members of their community during such a difficult time meant even more than having hot dinner.

As time passes and most residents are able to return home, The Salvation Army will continue to assess their needs, like food, clothing, medication and household goods, and provide further assistance. Thanks to the generous support of the community, our tremendous volunteers, and the donors who make it all possible, we’ll continue to do the most good in Sullivan County and all of Indiana.