LSS Disaster Response case managers Sarah Williams and Margery Marshall are currently working in West as part of a broader effort by VOAD organizations to provide assistance to those in need. A Joint Assistance Center (JAC) has been set up where VOAD and other responders can congregate and meet with survivors to assess immediate needs. Information is shared and help in the form of goods, services, and dollars are being distributed from the JAC. We are also coordinating response with our Lutheran partners including the LCMS Texas District and the ELCA’s Lutheran Disaster Response on broader response needs.
LSSDR, along with St. Vincent de Paul, and David Ricks from Beautiful Savior Lutheran church in Arlington, TX are providing gift cards to survivors to help cover unexpected expenses. So far, $6,000 in gift cards have been distributed. Perhaps the most urgent need is for housing for the displaced. There are no available shelters in the area, so other than hotels, there are few other housing options. We are working with our partners to put together a hotel voucher system. Your donations towards these efforts are urgently needed.
Sarah reported one heroic effort we have not seen in media reports. When word of the fire broke out, some of the off-duty nurses from the nursing home that was demolished by the explosion went to the facility and were able to help evacuate all of the residents from the building prior to the blast. Some of the employees were injured in the explosion but every nursing home resident survived.
In addition to the dozens of homes that were destroyed, approximately 130 employees of the nursing home are now out of work. Many of them were low wage earners. Texas Workforce Commission representatives are on site helping the affected with the process but unemployment benefits typically take several weeks to begin, leaving many without income for the next few weeks. Donation dollars are also needed to help these folks out with immediate needs.
We fielded several calls over the weekend from people interested in volunteering to help out with whatever needs to be done. At this point, there has not been a general call out for volunteers at the scene. That may change at some point and if it does, we will provide more information. For now, your prayers, your financial contributions and your donated blood are still urgently needed.