The American Red Cross tornado shelter set up at Thomas Jefferson Middle School will remain open as long as there is a need in the community. To date, volunteers have seen the need both in those needing shelter, resources, supplies, and/or food and water.
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On Thursday night, the shelter population totaled 33 in all three shelters set up in Jefferson City and Eldon after Wednesday night's tornado that swept through both communities.
According to a news release from Sharon Watson, American Red Cross chief communications and marketing officer, 10 individuals spent the night at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Jefferson City, 14 stayed at the Eldon Community Center and nine stayed at the Eldon Upper Elementary's Early Learning Center tornado room, which had its resources consolidated Friday to the Eldon Community Center.
Watson said Community Action Agency gave out a number of hotel and motel vouchers, which cut down on the number of people who stayed at the shelters late Wednesday and early Thursday. However, there have been many returning to eat and get supplies and resources.
"We are serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and have seen large groups of people coming to the shelters during those times. We also have snacks and water available throughout the day," she said Friday while visiting the Thomas Jefferson Middle School. "We do have clothing items, personal items and things so if someone is in need after the tornado or get some foods, they are welcome."
Those who have used the shelters have appreciated what the American Red Cross, its volunteers and those in the community have provided and donated there.
For Ruby Overman and her family, they are thankful they can return to the shelter after their hotel voucher from Community Action Agency expired Saturday morning.
Ruby Overman and her fiancé live below her daughter, Noya, her fiancé and her four grandchildren in an apartment four-plex on East Dunklin Street. They knew the damage would be extensive after surviving a direct hit from Wednesday night's tornado.
"I went and put my grandkids to bed above me, and I told them to go ahead and go to sleep (while their parents were at work). I came back downstairs to enter my door to the apartment, and I thought it was hail hitting the window. But my windows were actually blowing into where I was," Ruby said. "My grandkids witnessed their roof coming off, their own television going up in the air. It was horrible.
"When the tornado was over and I was trying to go upstairs to get my grandbabies, the door wouldn't release and the lock wouldn't release. I had to break down the door in to get to my grandbabies. Thank God they were alive, and they only had some cuts and scrapes."
The family of eight came to the tornado shelter at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and at a hotel courtesy of their voucher, using the help from the Red Cross, its volunteers and resources. However, after revisiting their apartment complex Friday to see the damage and what they could salvage, they found very little.
"It swept through the whole building. My room in my apartment is above my mom's room in hers. I almost fell through the floor with my foot trying to walk," Noya said. "One TV is about all we could save."
"I was only able to save my daughter's ashes, who died about a year ago, and a Bible," Ruby added. "Other than that, everything else was wet and damaged beyond repair."
They do have their vehicle and are able to get around to put in applications for places to live. However, they know it costs money and takes time.
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"I had to quit my job, and I have only worked my new job for a very short time. I look at my mom and say, 'I'm about ready to give up.' My mom said 'Don't give up,'" Noya said.
"It is not easy to just jump out and find a place to live. It takes time. Trying to get applications out there, but there is no guarantee that we'll get the apartment. And we don't have money to give away at this point and time like that. We barely have gas in the car. But we got to keep trying," Ruby said. "The Red Cross and the Thomas Jefferson Middle School have been a great help, and we do appreciate what they have done to help our family."
The shelters have received ample donations of clothing and personal items, in which volunteers have made kits for each person visiting. As they appreciate the generosity of the community, they are requesting the public hold off on any additional items at this time.
"We are working with community partners to determine a specific location that is able to take additional items for individuals affected by the tornado and the information will be provided as it becomes available," Watson said. "And we know in the next several days people may be needing items we may not know about at this point. We want to have a system to designate them to."
Those wanting to still donate can also do so monetarily to help assess specific needs as they come up for those affected in these areas. They can visit redcross.org, call their toll-free number at 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669) or text the Red Cross at 90999, which gives an automatic $10 donation.
Watson said the American Red Cross is also asking residents in areas affected by the severe storms to list themselves as "safe and well" at safeandwell.communityos.org/cms. Family and friends may then search for the name of anyone they are trying to locate on this site, she added.