Catholic Charities provides long-term care for tornado victims

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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More than three weeks since a tornado hit near Perryville, Catholic Charities of St. Louis has been formulating a plan to provide long-term care to households affected by the storm.

The EF4 tornado on Feb. 28 killed one person and leveled several homes and other structures, according to the National Weather Service. Others were left with extensive damage.

Catholic Charities of St. Louis was among agencies that participated March 4 in a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), a one-stop shop, if you will, to provide information and disaster-related assistance.

Colleen Smyth, project assistant with Service Integration for Catholic Charities, said 110 households were affected by the tornado, and more than 60 homes are unlivable. Catholic Charities is in the process of hiring a part-time case manager and will reach out to 42 households identified through the MARC event.

"We're talking to people one-on-one to see what their current needs are right now and then going forward, if they are interested in working with a disaster case manager, or if they feel like they've heard back from their insurance company and are getting back in to the routine," Smyth said. "We're seeing what their next steps are."

Some of those cases might turn toward long-term assistance, said Smyth, which could take as long as six months and maybe up to a year, depending on the needs. Catholic Charities is part of a Long-Term Recovery Committee of more than a dozen organizations working together to provide long-term help.

Catholic Charities also has been working hand-in-hand with St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Perryville and pastor Father Milton Ryan, CM, as a main point of contact for whatever needs they might have. This includes allocating donated funds and prioritizing the needs of people in the community.

"It's been incredible working with them," Smyth said.

Catholic Charities continues to receive calls from people who want to help. What is most needed now are cash donations, Smyth said. In-kind donations are not needed at this point, she stressed; seven warehouse sites already have been identified to store and distribute in-kind donations.

"The generosity of people who have been giving to Perryville has been overwhelming," she said.

Numerous schools and parishes in the archdiocese have collected donations for tornado victims. A popular way of raising donations is hosting an out-of-uniform day, and many schools did so.

St. Joseph School in Zell raised more than $500 from a recent out-of-uniform week. Other schools include St. Joseph School in Manchester, which raised $1,074; and St. Francis Borgia Regional High School in Washington, where students collected $850.

Student Council members at St. Joseph School in Imperial organized a Pennies and Prayers fundraiser. Students collected $1,020, which was used to buy gift cards to Walmart. They also committed to praying for those affected by the tornado.

Other schools include Immaculate Conception School in Old Monroe, which is donating its outreach collection money to St. Vincent de Paul Parish. As part of the weekly school Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes in University City, students designated their regular offertory collection for the month of March toward the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Perryville.

Students at Our Lady School in Festus collected bottled water, personal hygiene items, gift cards and other non-perishable items. And families at St. Simon the Apostle School in south St. Louis County collected about $800 in gift cards and two carloads of goods, with more coming in.

Queen of All Saints School in Oakville collected quarters and laundry detergent to help those impacted by the storm.

Assumption in south St. Louis County held a collection drive March 3. Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Assumption parishioners filled about two-thirds of a U-Haul truck with plastic storage containers, trash bags, work gloves, buckets, laundry baskets and wipes. Volunteers drove the items to Perryville the following day. The parish also collected more than $3,200 in cash donations to help those who were impacted by the tornado. 

>> How to help

Donations may be sent to Catholic Charities of St. Louis by mailing a check to P.O. Box 952393 St. Louis, Mo., 63195; indicate 'February 28 Tornado Relief' in the memo line

Donations also can be made online at www.ccstl.org. Select "February 28 Tornado Relief" from the "donate" link at the top of the website.

St. Vincent de Paul Parish is collecting donations to assist their school families affetced by the tornado. See www.svdepaul.org. 

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