I’m astounded every time I meet and talk to people in a disaster situation. That’s been true the past two years I’ve taken a class to Greensburg.
From the people who volunteer to help rebuild homes and lives to those who lived through the tornado in May 2007 and are reconstructing their existence, it’s downright amazing. This time, once again, those of us who interviewed and met people in Greensburg were inspired by their stories and their efforts.
I was humbled by Julie Harshey, the woman whose hard-fought success to live independently was disrupted by the tornado. Julie and 18 to 20 other clients of the Iroquois Center, which treats those with mental illness, were taken to Larned State Hospital and Coldwater before they were able to return home. They had nowhere else to go.
Julie’s back in an apartment, with the help of staffers at the Iroquois Center, and once again volunteering and using her golf cart to haul people around town. Her days are dedicated to helping others.
I was most taken by Sylvia, a volunteer from the Phoenix area who has been lending a hand in Greensburg for several weeks. She stays in a storeroom at the Methodist Church, where we bunked for two weeks. Sylvia’s working for pay now, helping build the new city hall, but she’s still doing her part to help others before and after work and on weekends.
Sylvia didn’t want me to do a story on her, but I figure it’s OK to comment on her attributes if I don’t use her last name or photo. I joked with her that she must be hiding from someone or in the witness protection program. Neither scenario is true. Sylvia, like Julie, just wants to led a hand to someone in need.
Friends on the way to Iowa dropped Sylvia off at the church. This isn’t her first volunteer gig. She also helped on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Sylvia says she’ll leave Greensburg to return to Arizona when the weather turns cold. In the meantime, like the many hundreds who have come to the tornado-devastated community, she’s content to do her part to help.
All of us who meet people like Julie and Sylvia are better for that experience. They’re doing their work — all those little things that are seldom noticed — for all the right reasons.
Check out the students’ work at greensburgrebirth.com. You’ll see for yourself.