Several organizations are participating in an assistance clinic in the Salvation Army Kroc Center, 1000 N. Keowee Street. Here, Volunteers with Operation Blessing ask how they can help a woman affected by the tornado. STAFF/ SARA HAGAN

Tornado assistance clinic: Agencies help tornado victims rebuild and heal

Last week, The Salvation Army went into communities affected by the Memorial Day tornadoes and handed out food and other essentials. This week, their outreach efforts have shifted to opening an assistance clinic aimed at helping those who have lost the most.

“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” said Salvation Army volunteer Cassandra Denture. “I started on Monday went out and handed out lunches, and now we are helping people here. This is really important because people can come here and get what they need. This will be the most impactful thing I’ve done all this week.”

The clinic — in the Salvation Army Kroc Center, 1000 N. Keowee Street — mainly targets those most affected, potentially with damaged or destroyed homes. Residents can come and speak to representatives at booths from a variety of organizations. Food, drinks and entertainment for kids is also available.

BEFORE & AFTER PHOTOS: Aerial views of 3 neighborhoods

“I’ve done this in other communities,” said Thad Hicks with the Salvation Army. “We want to help those who have lost everything, and we understand that in times like this that can be hard to prove, so we don’t want to turn anyone away.”

The Red Cross, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Operation Blessing, and Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Project are a few of the agencies in attendance at the assistance clinic, providing everything from spiritual guidance to legal assistance.

Karla Garrett Harshaw, director of development and communications with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, notes that legal help is needed in times of crisis.

“We are talking to people about everything from insurance issues to food assistance,” said Harshaw. “We also have a lot of information on housing rights, because we hear a lot of people are concerned about being evicted.”

A key concern for residents affected is the loss of proof of identity and important documents. One of the services that Harshaw and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality can provide is helping those who may have lost their records.

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Harrison Twp. resident Lavonnia Kelly visited the resource center on Thursday to seek assistance. Kelly’s apartment complex was damaged by the storms and lost power for several days, leaving her with no place to stay.

“After the tornado was over, it was still dark outside, so we couldn’t really see the devastation,” said Kelly. “Once the sun came up, it looked like a bomb went off. I stayed at my son’s place, a shelter, and a hotel before the power finally came back on.”

However, thanks to the assistance clinic, Kelly can begin the process of rebuilding and healing. Kelly noted that the mental health impact of a disaster can be devastating, and that it’s important to reach out.

“The African-American culture has seen nothing like this, this is stuff we see on TV. We are suffering from PTSD, and we already don’t like to acknowledge psychiatric problems in the first place,” Kelly said.

Those who need help can visit the assistance clinic. It will remain in operation through Tuesday from 1 to 8 p.m. each day, except Sunday when it is closed.

“It’s important to get the information out there,” said Kelly. “You have to go through the Red Cross first to get your papers, that’s really the key to the castle here. I have my papers and I’m getting help, so I’m good now.”

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