UMCOR expert visits with Piedmont tornado survivors
Mary Gaudreau of Guthrie observed a heartwarming scene when she met with tornado survivors July 13 for a dinner program hosted by Piedmont UMC.
After their shared experience—the May 24 storm—survivors were clearly forming new connections of support with one another.
"It was a fellowship supper, and they were having this great time together. Social support systems are primary (in recovery), and they were living that out," said Rev. Gaudreau.
Gaudreau is a spiritual and emotional care specialist. She was a presenter for the event after Pastor Sam Powers officially requested her service through UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). She is an UMCOR staff member serving in the United States.
Oklahomans may be very familiar with UMCOR’s emergency supply programs. Churches regularly collect and donate kits and cleaning buckets that the agency distributes worldwide. Gaudreau’s ministry puts an Oklahoma face on the agency’s work. She was deployed to 18 states last year after disasters, she said.
Soon after the tornado at Piedmont, the city’s ministerial alliance organized a dinner program for the affected families, said Rev. Powers. About 150 people were served, and several aid groups such as Red Cross and FEMA were present to answer questions.
"So many of them said thank you," Powers said, "and they said it was nice to eat something that wasn’t fast food or sandwiches."
As a result, the alliance agreed to sponsor a second dinner. A bank declared "Dinner at the Methodist church" on its marquee. The city phone alert system notified the public.
About 40 survivors ate pork tenderloin and homemade bread.
"We talked about the emotional trauma of a violent storm, not just damage to our homes," Gaudreau said. "There are predictable ups and downs that go along with stress and cumulative stress, and what we can expect to see at this time with families and individuals."
She noted, "Needs of children will often emerge a few months into a stressful situation."
Gaudreau said the audience seemed very receptive to hearing "about the recovery we don’t always see. To recognize there are patterns of how we heal can help people feel safe in our bodies."
Powers said some survivors still feel overwhelmed by the recovery/rebuilding process. "They appreciated us for not forgetting about them."
Gaudreau said people offering to help survivors need to listen more than give advice, and to realize recovery sometimes takes longer than you may expect. —Holly McCray