NORMAN — A team of Catholic Charities disaster response specialists from across the country are assisting Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City as it responds to the needs of people affected by the recent rash of tornadoes, announced Patrick Raglow, CCOKC executive director.
Within days, disaster case managers and specialists began arriving from the Diocese of Joplin, La Cross, Indianapolis, Tulsa, Biioxi, Brownsville and Baton Rouge.
Kim Burgo, disaster operations senior director from Catholic Charities USA, arrived early to lend technical support from the national office.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the national Catholic Charities network has elevated its role in disaster response to become one of the country’s leading early responders, creating a niche in disaster case management. The CCUSA team’s disaster experience covers the gamut of natural events ranging from Hurricane Katrina, California wildfires, floods, tornadoes, American Samoa tsunami and many others.
“We are grateful to Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Charities offices for their on-site staff expertise in helping us respond to this disaster,” Raglow said.
Immediately after arriving, the 12 loaned staff began working alongside local CCOKC workers, assessing immediate needs of disaster victims arriving at the four MARC sites and a distribution site set up at All Saints Catholic School in Norman.
Case workers to date have interviewed more than 1,100 heads of household, assisting them with gift cards, housing deposits, crisis counseling, and personal and household items.
“The initial meeting is a first step on the long process to recovery,” Raglow said, “but our real case management will begin later when we do a more in-depth analysis of the families with multiple barriers to recovery. Disaster response runs in predictable cycles. Right now, we are still in the initial relief stage, but already we’re seeing the signs the area is moving into the recovery stage.”
As the initial needs of survivors are met — namely food, clothing and shelter — families will begin to transition into a life of normalcy, moving into semi-permanent housing, returning to work and starting to plan for the future. Already, long-term, unmet needs committees are forming to begin discussing long-range planning.
“Rebuilding people’s lives is tough work,” Raglow said. “These tornadoes will likely impact the region for years to come.”
He said CCOKC is still working with families affected by the 2012 Woodward tornado.
“We are thankful for the assistance of countless Catholic dioceses and various communities from across the country that have donated goods and sent monetary contributions to assist us,” Raglow said. “With God’s help and the generosity of others, we will get through this disaster and care for the needs of people affected by these terrible storms.”
CCOKC has opened a disaster relief site at All Saints Catholic School, 4001 36th Ave. NW in Norman, to aide everyone affected by the recent tornadoes with immediate needs.
Household items, food, baby items, personal hygiene and cleaning supplies are available. Hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.