Hope After a Tornado

Debra, 60, and her 19-year-old daughter were excited to move into their new home in Ferguson. But on this particular afternoon in May, unpacking was the furthest thought from their minds. The two found themselves huddled in the back corner of their new residence, fearing the worst. Outside, wind roared and debris flew as a tornado tore through their neighborhood.


The dust settled and the two emerged to find a large tree resting in what was their kitchen. It had thrust itself through the backside of the house, destroying all that was in its path.

Tired, disheartened and scared with no place to go, Debra and her daughter began living out of their car before hearing of a service center for those in the community affected by the catastrophic storm. The center, ran by United Way supported American Red Cross, provided Berkeley residents with emergency shelter, food and clothing. They also helped to replace necessary medications and addressed other health concerns.

For Debra and her daughter, things were looking up.

What makes Debra’s story so unique is the extent of help she received by not just one United Way agency but four: Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, St. Patrick Center and The Salvation Army. While the Salvation Army and St. Patrick Center provided food and other basic needs, the Red Cross helped the two find a new place to call home and paid the first month’s rent. In an effort to help make their new place feel more like home, United Way supported Catholic Charities provided furnishings.

“They all made the transition much easier,” Debra said.

For the Red Cross, this was not the first time they’ve been there for Debra’s family. Prior to the tornado, her family experienced three deaths within a two-year span. Her son, a soldier in the National Guard, was serving in Iraq at the time, and the Red Cross secured him travel home to be with family.

Thanks to the aid of Catholic Charities, the Red Cross, St. Patrick Center and The Salvation Army, Debra and her daughter were given the resources necessary to rebuild their lives. Debra describes the holistic care as “an anchor” of support when they needed it most.

Although Debra’s daughter has since moved out, Debra still happily resides in the same home in Olivette the Red Cross helped her find. To the Red Cross, Debra says she owes her life.

“If it weren’t for them, I would’ve lost everything.”


About Catholic Charities of St. Louis
Catholic Charities seeks to break the cycle of poverty, abuse and neglect. They empower people to make permanent changes in their lives leading to self-sufficient, dignified lifestyles. Catholic Charities has been a United Way member agency since 1935.

About the American Red Cross, St. Louis Area Chapter
The American Red Cross provides compassionate care to those in need. They share a mission of preventing and relieving suffering, here at home and around the world, through five key service areas: disaster relief, supporting America’s military families, lifesaving blood, international services, and health and safety services. The American Red Cross has been a United Way member agency since 1924.

About St. Patrick Center
St. Patrick Center’s mission is to help individuals and families move from homelessness to independence in dignified, cost-effective and permanent ways. St. Patrick Center has been a United Way member agency since 1986.

About The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army serves community members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through emergency disaster services and dozens of different programs that are designed to help people attain, or regain self-sufficiency. The Salvation Army has been a United Way member agency since 1923.


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