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Greenfield – Help Thy Neighbor, Resilient People

Greenfield city sign

Carroll Therapist, Tina Zanders, LMHC describes her day in Greenfield following the tornado. Even though outside our diocese and service area, Tina was contacted by a Peer Support Program/Critical Incident Stress Management provider to offer mental health support in the storm-stricken town as relief over Memorial weekend.

Near town, I met dump truck after dump truck hauling debris. On the outskirts, I drove by beautiful homes with manicured lawns that hadn’t been touched - such a contrast to just a block or so into Greenfield. A fair amount of clean-up had been done prior to my arrival less than 5 days out from the tornado. It was hard to fathom that it had looked worse than when I arrived.

Most of the streets were open but still littered with leaves and bits of debris. Everywhere was congested with piles of rubble, trees or large trucks and equipment bulldozing severely damaged structures or moving the wreckage. I was there for one day and the scene was overwhelming. The thought of those living here was heartbreaking.

A few therapists were stationed at the elementary school, while a few others of us were stationed at the Catholic church, which was a main hub for people to get a hot meal, and pick up basic supplies such as trash bags and essentials like baby formula, diapers and food. FEMA was also located there, as were other assistance agencies. My/our goal was to give anyone an opportunity to talk. Only a few stopped. People were still in basic survival mode. Even the volunteers helping with clean-up and handing out food and supplies were in that mode. All were exhausted from putting in long hours.

To better connect with people, as they were walking around picking up items, I would grab the box they were filling and hold it as they put items in. I would share who I was, and why I was there and check in to see how they were doing and what they needed, I talked about basic self-care and let them know there would continue to be a mental health presence in their community long-term. I did the same with volunteers, pitching in and talking to them.

I found people trying to figure out how to meet the most basic needs of humans – food, water and shelter. Some were still without electricity and water, some were without homes altogether. The deceased were yet to be laid to rest. Yet, there was a strong sense of community, pride, fellowship and resounding hope they would all get through this together. People shared their heartfelt appreciation of their friends, community, and the outpouring of help from others near and far. I left knowing the road ahead was going to be long and hard, but I was filled with hope as well. These folks are small-town, hardworking, help thy-neighbor, resilient people.

To make a donation to Catholic Charities of Des Moines to support their efforts in Greenfield go to:


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