Care for Indiana Tornado Survivors: Tzu Chi Midwest Distributes Love and Aid

Midwest  |  July 21, 2023
On April 23, 2023, Tzu Chi Midwest Region teams up with volunteers from the Indiana Service Center to distribute $800 to $1,000 in cash cards, eco-friendly blankets, scarves, household items, and other financial assistance to families affected by the disaster in Sullivan. Photo/Dannis Lee

Written by 
Translated by
Edited by Andrea Barkley

The increasing prevalence of global warming and rising sea temperatures has intensified extreme weather events. Tornadoes, a potent manifestation of such extremities, strike the United States frequently every year from April to June. On April 1, 2023, an unexpected tornado swept through Sullivan, Indiana. Its damaging path left the streets in shambles and people with no time to seek shelter. Faced with despair and fear, the affected residents could do nothing but silently endure the tumultuous ordeal.

On April 23, Tzu Chi USA Midwest Region, in collaboration with the American Red Cross, sprang into action. Volunteers from the Indiana Service Center came together to provide aid to the tornado-stricken families in Sullivan. The assistance ranged from cash cards worth $800 to $1,000, eco-friendly blankets, scarves, to essential household items. More than providing material relief, the volunteers lent a listening ear to the survivors, helping them express their anguish over the loss of loved ones and homes, thereby offering emotional healing and leading them out of the shadows cast by the storm. The distribution drive benefited a total of 61 families, encompassing 165 survivors, and saw the issuance of cash cards amounting to $49,000 USD in total.

Volunteers come to the site early to prepare for the distribution. The packages of supplies are filled with sincere care for the survivors. Photo/Dannis Lee
Volunteers listen attentively to the survivors' accounts of the disaster and the pain of losing their families and homes, helping them to release their grief. Photo/Dannis Lee

The tornado nearly destroyed the residences of the survivors. Lisa Runyon, who experienced the tornado firsthand, had hoped it was nothing more than an erroneous weather forecast or a nightmare she’d awaken from. But the brutal reality quickly dashed these hopes. She shared, “I could tell a suction came over to the house. I yelled at my daughter, “This is serious! We got to go down to the basement!”

Likewise, survivor Janice Salka was unprepared for the vicious tornado that pulled her in, spun her around, and dealt a harsh blow. The memory still incites terror. She said, “The wind just picked me up and knocked me down; I had all kinds of things going through my head. I figured if it’s the time for me to go, I’ll go.”

In his state of helplessness, Tim Garrett desperately wished that the disaster was only a brief moment and that the following day would bring a return to normalcy. But when he woke, he discovered that life was far from returning to normal.

You think maybe the next day when you wake up, everything will be better. I got down here to look at it, oh my goodness the whole neighborhood is gone.

Survivors of the disaster are so moved that they shake the hands of volunteers and expressed their gratitude to Tzu Chi. Photo/Dannis Lee

Public facilities fell victim to the tempest, private possessions were lost, and the catastrophe abruptly halted a once tranquil life. The survivors, left in shock, were forced to confront this harsh reality. Yet, in these trying times, Tzu Chi USA emerged as a beacon of hope, illuminating the hearts of those overwhelmed by fear and despair. Following the disaster, the local Red Cross obtained the survivor roster and reached out to Tzu Chi USA Midwest. Volunteers promptly journeyed to the disaster-stricken area to distribute cash cards, blankets, and other essential supplies.

We came here to bring our love, to bring our support to this community.

Volunteers introduce Tzu Chi's bamboo bank to the survivors, explaining how to accumulate good deeds. Photo/Dannis Lee

Sullivan’s Mayor, Clint Lamb, expressed his admiration, saying, “They never could have imagined that this organization would come in, and just shower them with love and support. It’s more than just a financial contribution, it caters to their spiritual needs as well. They’re not just here to hand over a care packet, but to encourage pay-it-forward kindness, and to continue sharing the goodness.”

All volunteers take a group photo together after the successful distribution. Photo/Dannis Lee

Indeed, love and support form the very backbone of emergency relief. Tzu Chi volunteers serve to soothe the lost, reconstruct hope, and instill tranquility in every shattered heart.

More News Stories