On Wednesday the community of Perryville will mark the one-year anniversary of a tornado that destroyed 42 homes, impacted 105 families and, more importantly, took one life. As a member of the Long-Term Recovery Committee (LTRC), I’ve had an opportunity to learn a lot about Perryville in the last year, mostly confirming what I’d already heard. Unarguably, this is a proud, tight-knit community of caring people.
Following immediate help from hundreds of citizens, volunteers and agencies, one of the first actions taken by a funding organization was from the Perry County Community Foundation, which chose to provide $1,000 gift cards to every family to help with immediate needs. Several families refused theirs, offering their share to others who might need it more. Many families, even after learning they were under-insured, refused to seek help from Jennifer Streiler, the professional case manager who has performed with a praiseworthy blend of compassion and equity.
Others have sought help with a wide variety of needs as they go about rebuilding their homes and their lives. Based on the recommendation of the LTRC, funds from United Way donors have contributed to back-to-school clothing and supplies, land surveys, siding, appliances, furniture, ground fill, and workshops to aid in emotional and financial recovery.
Exactly one year to the day, we will co-host with Catholic Charities and The Salvation Army an anniversary dinner for the families. Quite likely, this will be the last time these people come together specifically because of this disastrous event that provided so many lessons. Hopefully, a long-lasting one for these families will be that they are not in this alone. There are many people who care about them, including strangers near and far who physically came to help, and donors to our phone-a-thon the week following the tornado who called from as far away as Texas, Colorado and New York.
Advice our ‘tornado families’ want to share with others includes:
- Take photos of everything in your home and store them somewhere safe and/or in the cloud.
- Back up everything!
- Visit with your insurers regularly to confirm and understand your coverage—be sure it covers the purchase of new items, not just the reimbursement for the item’s current value.
- Prepare and update an emergency kit with a record of prescriptions and credit cards, first aid supplies, cash, water and food, glasses and/or contact lens supplies, a phone charger, and anything else you can’t do without for a few days.
- And, perhaps more meaningful than anything, “Tell those you love how important they are to you every day, because you may not get another chance.”