Mental health recovery issues post tornado is Optimist program

The Marshalltown Morning Optimist Club met Tuesday at O’Hungry’s for its regular bi-weekly meeting. Past President Dorothy McHone opened the meeting by leading the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a quote, “Without water there would be no life on earth because without water there would be no coffee.”

McHone reminded members that there would be a Board of Directors meeting after the regular meeting concluded.

Program chair Linda Moore introduced Paul Daniel as the guest speaker. Daniel is the executive director of Center Associates and has been actively involved in the Long Term Recovery Committee since the July 19 tornado.

Daniel said July 19 changed this community and one can see the impact in so many ways in the buildings and in lives.

Daniel said that immediately after the tornado struck, Center Associates was able to help people with basic needs, such as water and temporary shelter, but being five months into recovery, people are still struggling. More than 1,000 homes were impacted. Many outside organizations have come to the community to assist, such as Habitat for Humanity, the VALOR group, Region 6 and many more. Locally, MICA has been helpful as a fiscal agent. Many other local groups and individuals have also provided assistance. Estimates are that recovery will be a three- to five-year process.

However, Daniel noted, some people are resistant to asking for help. For that reason, members of a local church have done a drive-by with police to hand out $100 bills to random victims with no strings attached.

Center Associates has also been targeting kids by offering mental health assistance, according to Daniel. Despite the routine of school, he said, kids are living in fear and especially having sleep issues. He has seen kids who regress and want to sleep with parents again. Center Associates staff have formed groups for students affected by the tornado that meet within their school buildings. Teachers have seen the fears, Daniel said, but don’t know how to help.

Daniel summarized his personal goal in the recovery efforts, “For me, it’s not about the bricks, but the lives that need help.”

The meeting concluded with the recitation of the Optimist Creed.

The Morning Optimists meet the first and third Tuesdays monthly at 6:30 a.m. at O’Hungry’s Restaurant. Visitors are welcome to attend and to view the website at www.morningoptimists.com.