We were assisted by good Samaritans from all over America who came to our aid. Many sent donations of clothing, building supplies and financial aid, while others actually came here & rolled up their sleeves to help with the overwhelming amount of work it would take to recover.
As our community began to recover & needed less of our attention, we began to watch other communities get struck by disaster & we knew only too well what they would have to endure in the coming days, months & years.
We got together and started to collect supplies for the victims. We took turns delivering donations to the disaster zones in our private vehicles. We noticed very quickly that, while it was somewhat traumatic to step back into a disaster zone and relive what we went through, there was also some healing taking place in doing so. We involved other survivors and they experienced the same awakening: losing oneself in the service of others is the antidote for trauma suffered in personal crisis.
We fell into a pattern of driving down in our vans or trailers, distributing supplies until they were empty, then setting up camp and helping with the cleanup & rebuilding. Rather than drive home with an empty van we would bring back a rescue animal or two and find them a good home… Often with our friends who were also storm survivors. These abandoned animals, some victims of abuse & neglect, needed healing too. Providing a loving home & helping with that process also helped storm survivors heal their own wounds.
We did this informally for years: no group name, no organization, just a gathering of survivors who understood what it was like to suffer through disaster & still find the strength to have a positive impact on others. In 2019 we formed United Survivors Disaster Relief, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. We added a name, & the tax deduction for our donors, but we are still a small, grassroots organization of volunteers who find healing in assisting survivors overcome adversity & move forward into a positive future….Survivors helping Survivors.