Story by Allie Weston
During severe storms in early May, many small towns in the Midwest were crippled by violent storms. Baxter Springs, Kansas was right in the path of several tornadoes and suffered a large-scale damage. Once the storm passed, the American Red Cross was on the ground ready to help the community. Alyx Dean, volunteer services associate with the American Red Cross of West Michigan, went to Baxter Springs to help the people affected by the storms.
Upon her arrival, Dean witnessed terrible destruction. The tornadoes displaced almost all of the 4,200 citizens of Baxter Springs from their homes.
“It was crazy to see all the damage,” Dean explained. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.” Many homes, as well as the town’s few stores, were demolished. The tornadoes destroyed the only grocery store and gas station. While surveying the damage, Dean recalls seeing cement steps that had once led up to the entrance to a house.
“There used to be a home there,” Dean said she realized. “People used to walk up those steps every day.” Seeing the damage showed her just how much she needed to help these people that had lost their houses, the places that they had come home to each day.
Dean, along with other Red Cross volunteers, set to work to help the people of Baxter Springs. A multi-agency resource center (M.A.R.C.) was set up in order to connect people with resources to help get them back on their feet. Dean was a client case worker at the M.A.R.C. She met with people, listened to their stories, and connected them with the resources that they needed.
“It was really touching to be able to help people when they didn’t have anything or anywhere else to go,” Dean said.
Many of the people she spoke with really touched Dean. Hearing their stories gave a face to all the destruction she saw. One woman that was reluctant to receive help finally opened up once she met Dean. The woman’s son had convinced her to go to the Multi-Agency Resource Center (M.A.R.C.), and it was there that she met Dean.
“I touched her hand,” she said. “And she just broke down and started crying and gave me a hug. She was so grateful because she hadn’t admitted to anyone before that she couldn’t do it by herself.”
Slowly but surely, with the help of the Red Cross, the Baxter Springs community started to get on its feet. Debris was cleared from the streets, citizens received help at the M.A.R.C., and people rediscovered hope. Thanks to volunteers like Dean, the citizens of Baxter Springs were well on their way to recovery.