By Eileen Connelly, OSU
Late on the evening of May 27, Belinda Busari and her family went to bed as usual. Their lives were changed in an instant when multiple tornados ravaged Dayton and areas north of the city, leaving a trail of destruction behind.
Busari’s family escaped unscathed, but their home was damaged beyond repair. “The roof blew off, and everything was destroyed,” she said. “I never thought this would happen to us.”
Immediately following the storms, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) came to the aid of dozens of families like hers. “Initially, the power outage was the biggest issue,” said Mary Reid, Director of Dayton Social Services. “Many people lost perishable food items, and we were able to help replace them through our choice food pantry.”
Months later, she explained, the focus is on family stabilization, financial assistance, and long-term case management. “We’ve been providing deposit and rental assistance to get people back into housing. Many people were uninsured or underinsured and lost everything,” she noted. “FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is working with people on repairing and rebuilding. It can take people eight months to two years to get back to their pre-disaster level of stability.”
CSSMV has been collaborating with other area agencies to best meet the needs of those impacted by the tornados, including St. Vincent de Paul Dayton and United Way, which recently launched a direct screening process. This enables the respective organizations to assess barriers that might make the recovery process more challenging for some families or individuals, such as minor children in the home, a disability, or financial strain.
“The collaboration within the community has been great,” Reid said. “It has been rewarding and challenging. This is a community we all live in, and having a direct role in the recovery effort is important to us.”
While tornado relief is not directly funded from the One Faith, One Hope, One Love contributions, Mike Lehner, Director of Marketing and Development for CSSMV, sees the campaign as a testament to the tremendous generosity of the wider Archdiocesan community.
“The campaign funds have done so much already for Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley and their clients,” said Lehner. “Now in addition to this, people of the Archdiocese have responded above and beyond their campaign contributions and have provided more needed support to benefit those impacted by the tornados.”
“We’re just so grateful for the support and generosity of the people of the Archdiocese,” Reid added. “We’re happy to be offering the services that we can during a time of need.”
In Busari’s case, this included purchasing a new washer and dryer, much needed for a family of eight. CSSMV also connected Busari to their community partners for other resources, including beds for the home the family is now renting and gift cards to purchase household items.
Busari admits that even with all the help, the emotional part of the recovery process will take time. “When it rains, everyone still wakes up scared. We pray that this house doesn’t blow away.”
“I thank God every day that we made it through. We’re still recovering, but wouldn’t be where we are without the assistance we have received,” Busari said. “I pray for the people that work at Catholic Social Services, and am very grateful for their help.”