OPINION: Times of trial show strength of SD's people
Within minutes of tornadoes devastating parts of Wessington Springs and surrounding areas, the American Red Cross in Mitchell received a call to respond to the disaster and offer assistance. We arrived shortly after the storm hit and were there for the next 10 days. In that time, our Red Cross team witnessed some amazing acts of generosity and kindness from the community and exemplary leadership from local and state officials.
When we arrived in Wessington Springs and saw the destruction caused by the storm, it was evident that a great amount of assistance would be needed there in the days, weeks and months to come. The American Red Cross provides food, clothing, shelter and assistance with emotional needs to those affected by disaster.
After seeing the many homes that were completely destroyed, others that were majorly damaged, and knowing the town had no electricity and wouldn't for days, this task of providing assistance seemed a bit overwhelming.
But then we met the residents of Wessington Springs. In the midst of all the chaos and heartache that the community was experiencing, the positivity of the residents was evident. From the start, there was the feeling that the residents cared more about their neighbors than they did themselves. We were shocked by the reaction of so many whose attitudes were that of, "We're just fine. There are people who need help more than we do." This often came from families who had lost everything. Those that weren't directly impacted by the tornadoes were there to help their neighbors in any way that they could. In fact, quite a few local residents came to the Red Cross feeding facility and asked to volunteer. These new volunteers happily went to work and stayed there with us for the next 10 days. It was truly humbling to meet the many welcoming, kind and selfless residents of Wessington Springs.
Along with the attitude of the community, we were also astonished by the generosity and support of neighbors from around the state. Donations poured in from every direction, along with volunteers who came to lend a hand. At the Red Cross feeding facility, numerous supplies were needed and I don't think that we ever asked for something that was needed and the response was "no." This enabled us to serve 7,700 meals, 23,000 snacks and 25,000 bottles of water, and provide hundreds of other items such as work gloves, bug spray and sunscreen to the residents of Wessington Springs and those who came to help.
The leadership in Wessington Springs, both those who live in Springs and those who came in to help, stepped up to the plate and worked as a team. It was truly a pleasure to work with these amazing people who did so much for the community.
I've never been prouder to be a South Dakotan, and I have no doubt that, in short time, Wessington Springs will be better than ever.
-- Summer Geraets, of Mitchell, is executive director of the Mitchell office of the American Red Cross, Dakotas Region.