Helping those in need

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Disasters come in many forms: fires, accidents, storms. And in the aftermath of a disaster there is a ripple effect that starts with the victims at the center and spreads out to include family and friends, emergency and aid workers and those who help clean up or make repairs, whether paid or volunteer.

It is heartening to see so many instances of volunteer assistance after a disaster. Recent examples include the hurricanes in Florida and a tornado in New Hamburg, Mo.

Devastation in Florida has been overwhelming this year, as a series of hurricanes battered the state. As might be expected, the storms' aftermath resulted in the dispatching of utility repair crews from across the nation to help restore power and some sense of order. The storms also attracted home-repair crews -- some legitimate and others not.

Best of all, though were the hundreds of volunteers who found their way to hurricane-damaged areas to offer whatever assistance was needed. One Florida homeowner recently sent a letter to the editor praising a Jackson man and his brother for all the help they provided in a time of need.

In New Hamburg, neighborly help quickly began to set things right after a tornado slammed into some buildings. "The good thing about a small town is that everybody is out helping people get things fixed up," said Leslie Sappington, who summed up the small-town response when help is needed the most.

Whether helping hands come from across state lines or across the street, they are welcome when disasters leave what appear to be hopeless situations in their wake. But thanks to the willingness of volunteers to help friends and strangers alike, the effect of devastation is lessened and the healing process begins.

--Southeast Missourian