Oso mudslide: one year later

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The Salvation Army continues to help people rebuild their lives.

By Lora Marini Baker – 

The mudslide near Oso, Wash., March 22, 2014, devastated the community—lives were lost, homes destroyed and survivors’ lives changed forever. Disaster response teams from The Salvation Army and partner organizations mobilized quickly; however, the process has been long and arduous.

Today, at the one-year anniversary of the disaster, The Salvation Army continues to help and will remain in the area as long as needed.

“This is Christianity with its sleeves rolled up,” said Northwest Division Emergency Disaster Services Director Shaun Jones.

The communities hardest hit were Oso (actual disaster site), Arlington (just west of the slide), and Darrington (just east). The slide destroyed state highway 530, literally cutting off residents in Darrington from getting to work or anywhere else.

Through its service extension department, The Salvation Army, partnering with other organizations, has served these locations and other smaller communities throughout the Northwest Division for years.

“The Salvation Army knew where Darrington was long before anyone else knew where Darrington was,” said Wyonne Perrault, director of North Counties Families Service in Darrington.

Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin recalled the onslaught of agencies coming to assist after the mudslide. “I was guarded, so many organizations were coming to help,” he said. But The Salvation Army “provided itself” and was “a safety net for so many people.”

Northwest Divisional Commander Major Doug Tollerud, Northwest divisional commander; Abigail Blum, case manager; David Johnstone, case manager; Shaun Jones, Northwest divisional director of Emergency Disaster Services |  Photo by Lora Marini Baker

Major Doug Tollerud, Northwest divisional commander; Abigail Blum, case manager; David Johnstone, case manager; Shaun Jones, Northwest divisional director of Emergency Disaster Services | Photo by Lora Marini Baker

Two case managers help families and individuals rebuild their lives by guiding them through the system of recovery and restoration. A consortium of groups–the Long-Term Recovery Group–supplies funding for this service; the groups are collaborating to provide a single point of assistance for families. The Salvation Army hires the caseworkers, who will be employed for a minimum of two years.

With other agencies, The Salvation Army established The Connection Center in downtown Arlington, headquarters for the Long-Term Recovery Group. Clients can drop in to visit case managers as needed. Case managers also meet families wherever they are most comfortable–home, church or coffee shop.

For Christmas 2014, The Salvation Army sought to make a difficult season more festive for impacted families by distributing 195 toys and gifts for adults, plus 83 gift cards. In all, the Army served 21 families and a total of 102 people.

Looking ahead, case managers will continue to help families present their needs to the Long-Term Recovery Group.

“The case managers are honest brokers,” Jones said. “They are a neutral resource for families to discuss their needs, and the case managers objectively present the needs to the Long-Term Recovery Group for funding.” When the group agrees to fund an item for a family, the case managers assist in researching and purchasing the needed items. When possible, business is kept in the area to help relieve the economic loss of the past year

To date, the group has distributed $1.3 million to aid families in rebuilding their lives, with fund directed primarily toward housing, transportation, and other immediate needs. A portion of funding is spent on counseling for survivors.

In the future, the anticipated needs are expected to be non-tangible. The emotional support of counseling is an important part of rebuilding lives. The group also funds education. As families rebuild their lives, many are considering education for themselves and their children.

Every family impacted by the mudslide grieved in its own way. Some families sought assistance immediately. Others only recently started to rebuild their lives. Whenever they are ready, The Salvation Army is there to serve them.

 

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