Tornado relief effort slows

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The local Salvation Army has begun to taper off relief efforts after a very busy couple of days last week.

After the tornadoes Wednesday, 24 volunteers put in more than 150 hours helping people out, along with aid from other response agencies such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army Community Relations Director Annette Bauer said. But this week has seen a little smaller need for help as people are starting to pick up the pieces after the storm.

Now, Salvation Army volunteers are looking to help as they’re needed, Maj. Marlys Anderson, who directs the Austin unit, said.

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“We’re just looking at taking it day-by-day,” she said.

This week, that will include one mobile canteen unit, which will deliver beverages to thirsty workers. Last week there were three units out and about. Anderson said there would also be fewer volunteers this week.

“It has slowed down quite a bit,” she said.

It certainly wasn’t slow late last week and into the weekend. Bauer said the Salvation Army served meals or snacks to roughly 2,000 people. In all, the army spent $10,000 to provide much needed service.

Bauer and Anderson both said the main goal of service was to keep people nourished and hydrated.

Bauer said sometimes people over exert themselves after a disaster strikes.

“People are so focused they don’t like to take time for themselves,” she said.

However, overworking, especially in the summer heat, can lead to illness or worse. That’s why Bauer said Salvation Army volunteers try so hard to “coax” people into taking a food and beverage break.

Cpt. Jim Brickson, who has helped oversee the Austin effort, said volunteer work didn’t let up when the weekend started.

He said he estimated volunteers combined for more than 200 hours of service on Saturday. By Sunday, however, people began to slow down as exhaustion and more rainy weather set in.

As to when relief efforts will be done in Austin, Brickson said it’s hard to say, as a full cleanup could take months or more, but he did acknowledge there would be people there to help.

“The Salvation Army is never done,” he said.