CSS responds in wake of deadly Davidson tornado
DAVIDSON CO. — Catholic Social Services workers from the Winston-Salem office are working with emergency personnel and state and federal officials to help those hurt by a recent tornado that struck Davidson and Randolph counties on Nov. 16.
The estimated EF2 tornado, with wind speeds ranging from 111 to 135 mph, left a trail of destruction about 12 miles long, killing two people and injuring others.
More than 50 families and nine businesses were impacted, according to Catholic Social Services. The deadly storm front also spawned tornadoes across the Southeast, and four other people were killed in South Carolina and Georgia.
Pictured: Daniel Byerly discovered his car buried under rubble outside a game room building that was leveled during a suspected tornado in the Silver Valley community of east-central Davidson County, NC on Nov. 17, 2011. (H. Scott Hoffmann/ News-Record.com)
"Catholic Social Services is responding to this tragedy by offering services to people who are coping with this devastation," said Diane Bullard, director for the local CSS office in Winston-Salem.
Catholic Social Services said this week that it is anticipating a $10,000 grant from Catholic Charities USA to help fund this response effort. Catholic Social Services is the local arm of Catholic Charities USA, the 100-year-old national office for Catholic Charities agencies and affiliates.
Some people lost their jobs following the destruction of their businesses, while others lack homeowners or renters insurance to help them recover from the loss of their homes, the agency noted.
The agency is coordinating cases, helping people find their way through the recovery process, as well as offering emergency assistance, baby clothing, diapers, food and material items, gift cards, school supplies, even mental health counseling.
The tornado victims are traumatized, Bullard noted. In one case, a woman and her four children are living in a mobile home covered by a tarp after a tree fell through the roof. Not only do they need help with repairs, they need counseling.
"The kids are afraid to leave her side," Bullard said, after they experienced the fierce tornado. "They're afraid that it'll happen again."
CSS representatives are staffing the county's Disaster Response Center, based at the Silver Valley Fire Department in Davidson County, where they are collaborating with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the N.C. Office of Emergency Management and the Davidson/Randolph County Offices of Emergency Management. The Silver Valley community was among the hardest hit by the tornado.
CSS is also recruiting a handful of volunteers from the nearby parishes of Our Lady of the Highways in Thomasville and Our Lady of the Rosary in Lexington.
"Now that first-responder agencies have done their part, Catholic Social Services is firm in its commitment to stand alongside these survivor families as they navigate the road to rebuild their lives," Bullard said. "People who are coping with the immediate loss of everything they own, as well as the trauma associated with the frightening tornado itself, find themselves having to negotiate a complicated road of paperwork, questions and decisions that will impact the rest of their lives."
Bullard said this is what Catholic Charities agencies across the country do – they move in to help when other agencies such as the Red Cross move out to respond to the next natural disaster.
"We're the next line of response," she said. "Somebody's got to stand with these people. It takes people a while to rebuild their lives. You don't just pick up the pieces in two weeks."
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
Want to help?
Financial contributions to Catholic Social Services as it reaches out to assist those in need are welcome. Checks should be payable to Catholic Social Services, and mailed to CSS PTO, Post Office Box 20185, Winston-Salem, NC 27120. Please put "client assistance" in the memo section.