By Carl Manning
American Red Cross
Red Cross volunteer Ed Belote arrived in the middle of the tornado damaged neighborhood in Oak Grove, MO with a vehicle filled with clean-up supplies and dozens of sandwiches from a local grocery to hand out.
Within a few minutes, it became obvious to the 32-year Red Cross veteran from Liberty that folks were too busy salvaging what they could on Wednesday, March 8, to stop long enough to go to the Red Cross vehicle.
“Well, I guess we will go where the need is rather than waiting for them to come to us,” Ed said as he hefted a box filled with wrapped sandwiches and started down the debris littered street with the sounds of chainsaws in the background.
One of the first stops was the battered home where Ruth Grote was living when the tornado touched down in her neighborhood Monday night. Most of her roof was torn off and the interior was littered with pink insulation and objects strewn about.
At first, the 89-year-old Ruth was reluctant to take a sandwich, but a smile and a few kind words from Ed had her laughing and soon admitting that maybe she could use something to eat.
Sitting in the garage as friends and family helped collect her belongings, she recalled gripping the bathtub and watching a door fly past in the hallway.
“The Lord must have spared me for a good reason. He could have easily taken me,” she said between bites of her sandwich. “I really appreciate the Red Cross and everybody in the community coming out to help. It has been a real blessing.”
Ruth said she was staying with her son in nearby Grain Valley while waiting to settle with her insurance company before deciding where to go next.
After making sure there was nothing else Ruth needed, Ed moved to other houses where people were busy working. At one point, he toted his sandwich box past falling limbs to offer food to a group working, and for a few minutes they stopped and chatted about what happened.
Nearby, Red Cross volunteers in another vehicle were handing out rakes, shovels and gloves and asking those passing by if they needed anything. Some stopped to pick up a pair of gloves or a rake while others said they had what they needed but thanked the volunteers for being there.
With his sandwich box empty, Ed returned to his vehicle to help other volunteers hand out such things as tarps, trash bags, coolers along with rakes and shovels.
A group of young men stopped by the Red Cross vehicle to pick up some rakes and shovels along with some trash bags and gloves, not for themselves but so they could go help their neighbors clean up.
For a video of the Red Cross at the damaged site, go to: https://youtu.be/AjUdFpSdgw4