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Catholic Charities Aiding Tornado Victims

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Diocesan agency providing immediate and planning for long-term aid

Since the tornado destruction in central and northeastern North Carolina on April 16, 2011, Catholic Charities staff in the Diocese of Raleigh has been working with government and other non-profit agencies to assist victims of the deadly storms. Prime examples are in Bertie and Wake Counties.

In Bertie County, Catholic Charities Albemarle Regional Director Stephanie Harrell and her staff joined with county officials and first responder agencies in reaching out to victims of the tornado that killed 12 people in the county. Ms. Harrell was involved in providing crisis counseling sessions to residents, whom she said were experiencing fear, sadness and loss. Meeting with a team of counselors, nurses and officials from the local school system who were visiting the homes of students, Ms. Harrell said, “I was impressed with the fact that these professionals came together so seamlessly to serve their community, and they indicated to my team that they appreciated Catholic Charities’ presence.” Ms. Harrell also conducted a stress debriefing session for first responders.

In Wake County, Catholic Charities staff was on the scene of the Stony Brook Mobile Home Park that sustained heavy damage and the loss of four young children from the tornado that struck portions of Raleigh. Staff and volunteers of Catholic Parish Outreach and the Hispanic Family Center served those in need both at the scene of the destruction and at its facility, serving more than 400 on the Monday following the Saturday storm.

Working closely with federal and state disaster agencies, staff, under the direction of Catholic Charities Raleigh Regional Director Rick Miller-Haraway, set up a meeting with an attorney from Legal Aid and storm victims who were staying at a temporary shelter. FEMA officials were also present with English and Spanish-speaking staff. Once the Heritage Shelter was closed and a number of families were moved to North Carolina State University’s Graduate Housing, Catholic Charities staff continued their work helping families in applying for American Red Cross assistance. The Diocesan agency, in conjunction with other non-profits, is looking to find available rental housing at the low rental rate that shelter families can afford. In addition, Catholic Charities is distributing gift cards from the ARC Shelter to disaster-impacted families.

One of Catholic Charities primary functions is to be present to victims long after the first responders complete their work. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge has directed the 95 parishes in the Diocese to undertake a special collection to help Catholic Charities in its disaster relief work in eastern North Carolina.