Joining Hands to Deliver Hope After Tornadoes Impact the U.S. Midwest

Midwest  |  February 25, 2022
Tzu Chi volunteers give Mayfield’s Mayor, Kathy O’Nan, a warm, eco-friendly scarf. Photo/Yue Ma

Written by Meizhen Qian, Weiling Wang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

On December 10–11, 2021, eight U.S. states were impacted by more than 50 tornadoes. Swiftly after, Tzu Chi volunteers mobilized for assessment and relief, aiming to help 1,000 families before Christmas.

Too Good to Be True

On December 16, the disaster assessment team from Tzu Chi’s Midwest Region held a relief meeting with the American Red Cross and Mayfield city government officials in Kentucky. For many years, the American Red Cross has been a valued partner in the provision of emergency relief. The American Red Cross helps Tzu Chi confirm the disaster situation and provides a list of survivors’ names, while Tzu Chi volunteers distribute essential relief and comfort survivors in disaster-impacted areas.

On December 16, Tzu Chi volunteers hold a disaster relief conference with American Red Cross volunteers and Mayfield city government officials in Kentucky. Photo/Yue Ma
Mayor Kathy O’Nan sheds tears upon learning of the aid Tzu Chi volunteers plan to provide for Mayfield. Photo/Yue Ma

Mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan was also present at the meeting, where Tzu Chi described how they would give $1,000 in emergency relief to families whose house was completely destroyed or severely damaged, as well as eco-blankets, scarves, masks, and Christmas gifts. With this, the Mayor could not help but shed tears.

“I told myself every day to be strong and not to cry,” said the mayor of Mayfield, Kentucky. “There are countless charitable organizations. When I heard that [Tzu Chi], an organization I have never heard of, [was] going to give us $1,000 for every affected family, I really couldn’t help crying. I really couldn’t help it.”

I heard that your organization plans to bring supplies to our residents; that is too good to be true. Your generosity really touched me.

Kathy O’Nan, Mayor of Mayfield
American Red Cross volunteers help mark the location of disaster-impacted areas for Tzu Chi. Photo/Yue Ma
Tzu Chi volunteers confirm details with the American Red Cross. Photo/Yue Ma

“I often work with Tzu Chi volunteers in various parts of the United States for disaster relief projects,” expressed Steven Nielson, an American Red Cross volunteer. “Whenever we start disaster relief, [Tzu Chi] will put forward specific solutions and get their volunteers ready. It’s an excellent organization and a very important partner of the Red Cross.”

Disaster Relief Begins in Missouri

After disaster assessment and relief plans were completed in Mayfield, the assessment team set off again on December 17, driving for more than three hours to Missouri, and joining Tzu Chi’s St. Louis volunteers for the first disaster relief distribution in Defiance, Missouri. Upon the team’s arrival, volunteers were welcomed by volunteers on-site, and the Executive Director of Tzu Chi’s Midwest Region, Chong Hsieh, extended warm regards to American Red Cross volunteers, who assisted in the distribution. After confirming that everything had proceeded smoothly, the disaster assessment team traveled back to Chicago overnight, seizing every moment to ensure all preparations for the large-scale distribution could be accomplished the following week.

The disaster assessment team returned to Chicago at midnight on December 17, and on the morning of December 18, the Executive Director of Tzu Chi’s Midwest Region and his wife both rushed to the service center to join the volunteers in a prayer for survivors. Thereafter, they immersed themselves in further preparations.

While Tzu Chi Midwest Region volunteers were actively preparing for disaster relief, Tzu Chi volunteers from all over the United States showed their support. Volunteers from Tzu Chi’s Mid-Atlantic Region, Northeast Region, National Headquarters, Southern Region, and Northwest Region all organized, packed, and sent relief supplies to Kentucky as fast as possible before the large-scale distribution. Children from the Tzu Chi Education Foundation’s preschool and elementary schools also worked together to make posters and cards full of their loving care. These warm blessings were also to be distributed alongside the relief materials for survivors.

Volunteers from all over the United States mobilize to organize and pack relief supplies. Photo/Dennis Lee
Students of the Education Foundation make posters and cards, hoping to warm the hearts of survivors. Photo/Jiazhen Zhao

Hastening to Deliver Relief

At the same time, Tzu Chi’s St. Louis Service Center volunteers continued to attend to the needs of survivors in Missouri. After completing the disaster relief distribution on December 17, local volunteers went to Hayti, a small city in southeast Missouri, on December 18 and provided relief for 24 impacted families.  

After completing the preliminary efforts for disaster relief, nine volunteers from the Tzu Chi Midwest Region and three volunteers from the Tzu Chi St. Louis Service Center set off for Kentucky again on December 19. In less than 24 hours, they finalized the next stages of preparation, including verifying the details of a community memorial service held by the local government. 

St. Louis volunteers go to Hayti, Missouri, for disaster relief. Photo/Wenzhen Wu
Midwest Region volunteers travel south again after readying supplies. Photo/Yue Ma

Traveling south again, volunteers’ had loaded their vehicles with supplies to be distributed. This included 1,500 eco-friendly blankets and 2,500 eco-friendly scarves, as well as children’s books, winter hats, warm gloves, toothbrushes, toothpaste, fluorescent sticks, hand sanitizer, masks, and flashlights. In addition, more than 40 volunteers who wished to assist in this distribution had gathered in Mayfield, Kentucky, before December 21.

After disasters, Tzu Chi volunteers strive to send their love and care to survivors without delay. Help empower us with the resources to do more. 

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