The Salvation Army's international charitable organization prides itself on "doing the most good."
The Salvation Army Jefferson City found itself doing the good it was best equipped to do alongside other community organizations doing their best for Mid-Missouri after the May 22 tornado.
"Shelter and food just happen to be our two things that we do best," said Brian Vogeler, director of The Salvation Army Jefferson City's Center of Hope shelter.
The Salvation Army responded even before the storm had hit, opening its Jefferson Street facility to the community as a tornado shelter as soon as warnings were issued.
The next morning, the need had shifted from shelter to food.
"We got a call from one of the temporary (American Red Cross) shelters that they set up, and they were needing a lot of meals fixed very quickly," Vogeler said. "So that's when I got everybody together, and we started making food."
With a full kitchen and full-time cook, they didn't stop making food for weeks.
"When I would cook meals here, I would cook for everyone here at the shelter plus the community, plus make food to take out on the canteen trucks three times a day," cook Debbie Kuhr said. "It was pretty busy. We had a lot of help from some of our residents who pitched in and did a lot (and from volunteers). I couldn't have done it by myself in the kitchen."
The local Salvation Army called in "mobile canteen" food trucks from the district headquarters in St. Louis so they could take meals on the road in Jefferson City and Eldon, serving affected residents as well as first responders.
"That morning, we had 300 meals to Eldon by noon," Vogeler said. "I have a truck, and we really just throw a bunch of water, food, everything like that into the truck and take off to Eldon."
Once the canteens arrived, The Salvation Army was serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
It amounted to about 4,000 meals served over two weeks, in addition to regular meals served to shelter residents and community members at The Salvation Army.
Traveling with the canteens also allowed Salvation Army staff to reach out personally to people affected, going door to door.
"It was a time just to check on people, talk to them, pray with them," Vogeler said.
Nikki Eddings, social service case manager at The Salvation Army Jefferson City, added: "I feel like a sense of community kicked in. People were just really wanting to give back. We saw a lot of donations of water, personal care kits — we probably gave out over 50 personal care kits — cleanup kits, fans."
The Salvation Army staff remains busy even months after the tornado, with more people staying in the shelter and more people showing up for meals than is typical for this time of year.
"You just pull together, and I think that's what makes The Salvation Army unique — it's not just one person; we're here as a group to help everybody," Vogeler said. "To do everything that we did in those two weeks, it was absolutely amazing."
Other "Heroes of the Storm"
There were nearly 20 individuals and organizations who received plaques Saturday, Aug. 27, 2019, at a ceremony recognizing them as "Heroes of the Storm" for their actions during the May 22 tornado. Read their stories: