Oregon volunteers return from Midwest tornado relief trip

OREGON, USA (KGW) — Volunteers in Oregon saw the pictures and video of devastation after tornados ripped through parts of the Midwest, and immediately reacted – heading east to help.

The tornados that touched down on Dec. 10 killed dozens of people, and destroyed towns across multiple states – including Kentucky and Tennessee.

“Just knowing how much help is needed drew me to it,” said Marc Brooks, executive director of Cascade Relief Team.

His organization, founded after the 2020 fires in places like Otis and Blue River, focused efforts for the last 15 months on long-term recovery at home.

“We want to leave a legacy if it makes sense, and that’s to take them full circle – start to finish – the moment when the fire happened, or whatever disaster happened, to getting them back in their homes.”

However, this tornado’s destruction struck a chord.

“With this, it looked like with the sheer magnitude, with the 200 miles plus it covered, that you could have every nonprofit in the world there and there still wouldn’t be enough hands on deck.”

After arriving Mayfield, his team went to work at a resource center in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Brooks came back to Oregon earlier this week, but the team has plans to deploy for a second time with 20 volunteers in January.

He believes it will take years for the survivors to fully recover from the disaster, but even in these early days, he said people are resilient and have hope.

“The term I use for it is: ‘Beauty in the midst of devastation.’ A volunteer who worked for us said it that way, she said it was beauty in the midst of devastation and it’s the only way that you can ever put that into words.”

Other organizations, including the Red Cross, responded to the disaster zone. Alan Underkofler from Corvallis works as one of those volunteers, helping procure supplies to be given to the most in need.

“When we had our Oregon fires, some of the first volunteers from the Red Cross that came in we’re from Kentucky and Tennessee so it’s almost like we are reciprocating back to them. We have a disaster, they come to our help, and respond to our need. We can do the same thing,” he said.

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