• William Hale

The Salvation Army: Meeting Emergency Needs Across The Southern United States

Atlanta, GA – Over the last several months, The United States has weathered devastating tornadic activity, floods, and wildfires.  From early April until June, the southern U.S. faced particularly severe, life-altering conditions.  In service of survivors, The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) team provided immediate material, emotional, and spiritual care. 

As the recovery process progresses, the Army is committed to meeting the long-term needs of those affected through its many life changing social service programs.  The Salvation Army has served the United States for more than 130 years and will continue to do so in His name without discrimination. 

The following represents a sampling of the services provided by The Salvation Army across the southern United States.

 A Snapshot of Service: April 12 – June 8,2011

  • 360,000 Hot Meals
  • 835,000 Snacks & Beverages
  • 52,500 Cases of  Emotional & Spiritual Care
  • 50,000 Hygiene Kits
  • 12,000 Cleanup Kits
  • 90,000 Hours of Service
  • 54 Mobile Feeding Units
  • 1 Fifty-Two Foot Field Kitchen
  • 1 Mobile Shower Unit
  • 2 Satellite Communications Trailers

Alabama- Louisiana - Mississippi Division:  On April 15th, tornadoes struck Clinton and Jackson, Mississippi.  In the days that followed, EDS crews served 6,000 meals, 8,000 drinks, and 10,000 snacks while also tending to emotional and spiritual care of storm survivors.  Only a few weeks later, EDS personnel were called back into action.

The tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011 caused tremendous property damage and loss of life in Alabama and Mississippi.  Within an hour of touchdown, Salvation Army EDS crews were on the scene in Tuscaloosa and at 14 other sites across northern Alabama serving food, beverages, and providing emotional and spiritual care.  Within one week The Salvation Army had opened 19 distribution centers throughout the affected states.  

Despite the loss of several Salvation Army facilities in the storm, local personnel answered the call of service in their communities.  Likewise, 40 EDS crews from across the southern United States traveled to affected areas in mobile feeding units known as canteens.  These canteens are each capable of serving several thousand meals a day to storm survivors.  A 52’ mobile kitchen capable of serving 20,000 meals a day was also mobilized in support of relief efforts.

Over the course of the recovery, more than 200,000 meals, 350,000 beverages, and 300,000 snacks were provided to survivors.  Salvation Army counselors offered emotional and spiritual care to 52,000 people.  Trained Salvation Army social service workers opened more than 55,000 cases providing financial assistance, food boxes, cleaning kits, and other items to the affected.  Furthermore, an interim shelter to house the homeless and Veteran Affairs’ populations in Tuscaloosa is in the final planning phase. 

The work did not end with the tornadoes.  With the winds came tremendous rain.  The rain led to flooding along the Mississippi River.  Currently, distribution centers are stocked with supplies which will be given to affected residents once the waters recede.  Additionally, 7 mobile feeding units and volunteer cleanup crews are on standby ready to patrol the streets providing food, beverages, emotional/spiritual care, and storm cleanup assistance as needed. 

Arkansas- Oklahoma Division:  For the last several months, EDS crews throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma have battled inclement weather on multiple fronts and across state lines.

Beginning on April 12th, EDS crews responded to more than 11 wildfires which ravaged several regions in Oklahoma.  A mere two days later, a deadly tornado struck Tushka, Oklahoma.  Multiple EDS crews responded immediately.  On April 25th another round of tornadoes ripped through the division hitting Faulkner and Garland Counties in Arkansas.  Three days later, following the tornadoes which devastated Tuscaloosa, parts of Tennessee, and several towns in Georgia, flood waters hit northeastern Arkansas. 

For the next month EDS crews met material, emotional, and spiritual needs in numerous locations throughout the division.  EDS personnel provided more than 25,000 meals, 27,000 snacks and beverages, and more than 3,000 hours of service.  As emergency disaster services transitioned from meeting immediate needs to assisting with long-term recovery and case management, tragedy struck again. 

On May 22, 2011 incredibly powerful tornadoes battered Joplin, Missouri leaving a path of death and devastation miles wide.  Arkansas - Oklahoma EDS crews rallied in support of their neighbors in The Salvation Army’s Central Territory.  In addition to a mobile kitchen, a satellite communications trailer offered continuous internet and phone service in an area where all communication abilities had been lost.  From just outside St. John’s hospital, a canteen served thousands of meals a day to storm survivors and first responders.

Finally, on May 24, 2011 yet another tornado system struck.  F-4 tornadoes ripped through multiple counties in both Arkansas and Oklahoma.  EDS crews yet again responded to the immediate needs of survivors serving more than 3,000 meals in the days that followed. 

Georgia Division:  Georgia EDS teams activated immediately following the April 27th tornadoes sending mobile feeding units and crews to affected areas within the state.  Over the course of their response effort, EDS teams provided 16,460 meals, 7,616 snacks, 30,256 beverages, 251 cleanup kits, and 1,034 articles of clothing.  Salvation Army officers, staff, and volunteers gave more than 4,800 hours of service providing several thousand individuals with social services and more than 200 with emotional/spiritual care.

In support of relief efforts, the Georgia Division partnered with FEMA, GEMA, and several local businesses.  Georgia Pacific, the Atlanta Braves, Verizon, and others played a key role in raising public awareness and funds for storm recovery operations.

Kentucky- Tennessee Division:  The tornado system of April 27th which caused so much devastation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama also destroyed homes, businesses, and lives in multiple counties throughout the division.  EDS crews immediately mobilized canteens to provide food and care to survivors.  Additional teams were sent to aid in neighboring states battered by the storms. 

In the wake of the tornadoes, EDS personnel responded to flooding along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries.  Food, material assistance, and spiritual care were provided in cities such as Memphis where flood waters forced residential evacuations.

Since late April, teams have provided approximately 24,000 meals, 70,000 snacks and beverages, 1,300 articles of clothing, and assisted approximately 5,100 people with emergency financial aid.

Florida Division:  As tornadoes swept through Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, 10 EDS crews boarded canteens and headed north.  These teams would go on to serve thousands with food, drink, and emotional/spiritual care.

In May, fire struck Collier County, Florida.  Over three days, EDS personnel served 382 meals, 780 drinks, and 454 snacks to firefighters and other first responders.

National Capital - Virginia Division:  In early April, tornadoes struck the Virginia communities of Pulaski and Draper.  Over the course of 8 days, EDS personnel provided 429 meals, 610 snacks and drinks, and 160 cleanup kits to survivors and first responders.  Shortly thereafter, tornadoes hit Gloucester, VA.  Over the course of 19 days, Salvation Army personnel provided 1,521 meals, 1,138 snacks/drinks, 457 comfort kits, 262 clothing vouchers, 28 bags of groceries, and lodging for 8 families (1 to 3 nights).

North - South Carolina Division: Across North and South Carolina, The Salvation Army continues to serve individuals and families impacted by more than 20 tornadoes that tore across the two states on April 16th

The Salvation Army has met emergency needs with provisions of food, water, household items, clothing, shelter, financial assistance and much more.  As with any disaster, the immediate focus is on response and care.  During this phase, The Salvation Army of North and South Carolina served more than 60,000 meals and beverages to storm survivors and first responders, distributed over 3,000 items of material care such as clothing, cleanup kits, toys for children, blankets, essentials for infant care, and provided 279 people with emotional and spiritual support.

Nearly two months after the tornado strikes, Salvation Army services are converting to long-term care and focused case work.  With close to 400 individuals turning to Salvation Army casework staff, efforts are underway to establish priority needs for storm survivors and match them with resources such as FEMA. 

Central to The Salvation Army’s commitment to long-term recovery is its people on the ground.  Since May 2011, The Salvation Army has dedicated more than 5,000 hours of service through greater than 350 personnel and volunteers.  From hours preparing hygiene kits and packing food boxes to matching that “just right” toy with a scared child, The Salvation Army is dedicated to meeting needs across North and South Carolina.  

Texas Division:  From April 9th until the 22nd, Texas EDS personnel offered material, emotional, and spiritual support to survivors and first responders to wildfires which burned throughout West Texas.  From 9 service locations, 13,305 meals, 23,594 drinks, 7,224 snacks, and 170 school lunches were provided.  The fires would eventually consume more than 1.5 million acres. 


About The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar spent is used to carry out those services in 5,000 communities nationwide.  For more information, go to www.salvationarmyusa.org.