Tornado Relief: An Update from Catholic Charities Executive Director Judy Orr
Added Mar 12, 2020

The Catholic Charities of Tennessee team continues to pray for and work for the continued healing of our community members affected by last week’s devastating tornado, especially those who lost loved ones. Thank you to all of you who have reached out to us asking about our wellbeing and offering ways to join us in helping our neighbors.

I want to share a few brief updates from Catholic Charities of Tennessee regarding how we are helping our communities heal.

Relief Center at McGruder Family Resource Center

Nashville has many wonderful organizations dedicated to crisis response that will provide for immediate needs such as shelter, meals, cleanup, etc. Catholic Charities’ McGruder Family Resource Center has served as a relief center in North Nashville during the first few days of the crisis. For example, Gideon’s Army Nashville and Hands On Nashville used McGruder as a base for volunteer efforts. BBQ On Relief provided thousands of meals to those affected in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Our staff and volunteers delivered food to neighbors in North Nashville when there was no electricity for us or anyone in the area. And our community center was a natural gathering place for community members who have trusted Catholic Charities to provide support in North Nashville over many decades.

We also want to thank Councilman Brandon Taylor and the Mayor’s office for their support of our efforts and for securing a consolidated site for donations at Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School.

We are fortunate that McGruder FRC was not damaged by the storm and are happy to make it available to organizations who need space. It continues to be a meeting place for nonprofits working together on strategies to achieve the most impact. I want to thank the entire McGruder staff for their tireless efforts since the storm.

Commitment to Long-Term Recovery

The Catholic Charities team has spent the last week working on plans for how we will help in the long-term recovery in communities that need it most. For us, this currently means focusing on family counseling, housing, and long-term case management to connect people with resources. We will provide this support for months to years, as needed. These services are in addition to short-term cash assistance that we are already providing.

We are in the process of contracting with mental health professionals to supplement our existing staff. Counseling is available to any family regardless of financial situation. Our counselors are trained to assist families dealing with crisis, grief, depression, chemical dependency, and much more.

Within a day of the tornado, Catholic Charities USA – of which we are a member – donated $10,000 to our tornado-recovery efforts. They have also offered assistance for temporary counselors and case managers.

If you know anyone needing immediate assistance, please direct them to Catholic Charities’ main number, 615-352-3087.

Catholic Charities has a special relationship with the North Nashville community, largely because of the McGruder Family Resource Center and our connection to St. Vincent de Paul Church and its parish family through Saint Mary Villa Child Development Center. We love the people in this community; we are saddened by the extensive damage caused by last week’s storm.

North Nashville had challenges before the tornado; the storm damage has only exacerbated those challenges. This New York Times story – “A Tornado Decimated North Nashville. The Rebuilding May Destroy Its Soul.” – explains why North Nashville is so at risk.

Our hope is that no one is permanently relocated or made homeless because of the tornado. In the short term, this means providing housing and financial assistance so residents are not made homeless. We will update you as we formulate long-term plans for those needing help to remain in their homes.

We also treasure our neighbors in East Nashville, where our Loaves and Fishes program is housed at Holy Name Church’s Strobel Hall. Many of our neighbors also suffered devastating loss, and we are committed to helping them recover and rebuild. Our facility incurred slight damage and had no electricity for days. However, we improvised to provide sandwiches in the days after the tornado, and were able to restart our regular meal program yesterday. The program is also working with several area churches to provide food boxes from Second Harvest.

Thank You For Your Support

Thank you to everyone who donated to Catholic Charities since the tornado. We have raised more than $80,000 since the tornado tore through our region early on Tuesday, March 3. (Many donations are from outside of Tennessee. It is humbling and heart-warming to know that so many not directly impacted by March 3 are on our tornado relief team!) ~ These funds will be applied to providing case management assistance and counseling services to tornado survivors, as well as material assistance, when circumstances allow, for unmet needs. We learned during the recovery period for the May 2010 floods that these services are how we can best walk with survivors on the road to recovery.

Love, Goodwill, and Kindness

We have no doubt Nashville will recover from this natural disaster.

I’m reminded every day that love, goodwill, and kindness can heal those in need.

Fortunately, Nashville has all three in abundance.

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