Majors David and Joanna Robinson of the Salvation Army have been working tirelessly to get donations into the hands of tornado victims, and they are trying to get the word out about how they can help.
When the April 27 tornado hit, the Salvation Army was on site immediately serving meals for nine days.
David said, "We were in Mayflower the night the tornado hit. We got into Vilonia the next day. So many people were serving, and food was so abundant, we slowly backed out."
Since then the Salvation Army has given away thousands of gift cards at different events where agencies gathered in one place to offer a one-stop shop for tornado victims to collect supplies. The charity is continuing to help by distributing food boxes through its social service office on Harkrider Street.
Now the Salvation Army is working to meet needs that insurance and FEMA funds won’t cover. Families with tornado damage who have a case manager can receive up to $1,500 to help them get back on their feet. For example, David said, one family needed appliances, and the Salvation Army was able to provide $1,500 toward that expense. Another family was able to purchase a piece of land and a trailer with FEMA funds, but they needed the land leveled before they could put the trailer on it. The family got a bid for about $1,500, and the Salvation Army paid for having the ground leveled, he said.
The Robinsons said donors to tornado relief have been extremely generous, but daily operations donations have dropped off. Checks labeled "tornado" or "disaster" go into a separate fund at the Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters and cannot be touched for the daily operations of the Conway office.
"That’s been the hardest thing, trying to figure out how to pay our light bill. Seeing all these checks coming in and none of them are ours," David said. "But we want people to know that all the money that came in for the disaster is going to go to the people. We want everyone out there to get back on their feet as soon as possible."
The Robinsons have been with the Salvation Army for many years and have lived in many places. They served two years as cadets, three years as lieutenants and 12 years as captains. They were promoted to majors on June 6. They say they love it in Conway.
"We’ve been to so many disasters I can’t remember the dates," David said. "This is the first place I’ve been to that people take just what they need. You’re trying to offer them so much, and they take exactly what they need."
He said he has had people ask for as little as three pieces of plywood.
Joanna added, "They’re so grateful for whatever they receive."
Case management services are being set up for Vilonia, Mayflower and residents of Faulkner County, David said. The Salvation Army does not do case management. The charity will work with families who have already seen a case manager.
"They’re all being set up to make sure no one falls through the cracks," he said.
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