by Todd Andrews
When it comes to natural disaster relief efforts, it’s not only the initial outpouring of support survivors get but the continuous, everyday help over ensuing months which matters. In the wake of the tornado that heavily damaged the central Iowa community of Marshalltown in late July, the corps there has been filling the needs of people on both counts.
The first phase involved serving more than 17,000 meals and giving away some 7,200 clean-up kits and other items in the first two weeks. The second phase comprised a mid-August distribution of donated goods trucked in by the Christian volunteer network Orphan Grain Train. This three-day distribution was run by officers, staff and volunteers in the corps gym.
“We set it up like a little store,” said Captain Pam Kasten, Marshalltown corps officer. Clients checked in and then chose food and other items based on the size of their family. Within the first hour of opening, dozens of families had made their way through the convenience-store-in-a-gym. Everything from cereal to jam, plastic cutlery to mattresses, was available. There was so much, items had to be stacked in bundles seven feet high to fit and allow for foot traffic.
“They’re really grateful for the help,” Captain Pam said of the people who’d come for assistance. She smiled, reflecting on how it had all come together starting with a phone call a week prior informing her of the items en route to Marshalltown.
“It was a little overwhelming at first,” she said. Her initial worry as to where to store and how to give away the items quickly gave way to an action plan, plus a whole lot of gratitude to the donor organization. “I’m thankful that people trust us to do this,” she said.
This donation and one slated for October provided a boost to the Marshalltown Corps which had to deal with infrastructure challenges after the tornado.
“The greatest need being seen in the community right now is housing,” said Captain Pam. “There was already a housing shortage, and now it is even greater. The Salvation Army along with other agencies in town have formed a long-term recovery committee to try to address this need.”
She anticipates applications for food and toys at Christmas might be greater this year and is certain they will need volunteers to ring bells at kettles to help support the long-term recovery and other programming.
The captain and her crew say they’re grateful for increased awareness in the community that The Salvation Army is there to help—for the long haul.