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AmeriCares Relief Worker Reports from Nashville Floods

  • May 18, 2010

Deadly floods in Tennessee and Kentucky have killed at least 31 people and damaged over 2,000 homes. Buildings throughout Nashville were submerged, including an American icon, the Grand Ole Opry. Read Morgan White’s first-hand story about AmeriCares flood relief efforts. Morgan, an AmeriCares aid worker, reports from her recent trip throughout devastated Nashville neighborhoods.  

As I drove around Nashville, I could see the destruction that the terrible flood had inflicted on the city and its people. Disasters often hit the poorest of the poor the hardest, and this was no exception. In one neighborhood I visited, a trailer park had been reduced to rubble strewn for blocks. In another, cars and debris off of the local highway had floated into homes and trees, leaving a path of destruction behind it.

However, amidst the damage, the sense of community around me was unbelievable. Local volunteers, neighbors and church groups were working hard to clean and repair their neighborhoods. AmeriCares sent hard hats, shoe covers, reflective vests – all the things people need to stay safe and injury-free while they’re doing clean up and repairs.

After hours of visiting affected neighborhoods and assessing the damage, I realized I hadn’t eaten. An open restaurant in these neighborhoods was a rarity, but eventually I found one locale that got through everything with limited damage.

It was serving as a watering hole for the neighborhood and they welcomed me with Nashville’s famous Southern hospitality. The atmosphere could have been tense, stressful; this was a low-income neighborhood that had been pretty badly affected. Instead, what I encountered was a powerful sense of community; that we’d get through this together.

With renewed energy – both physical and emotional-, my next steps were to find out exactly what additional relief and medical supplies were needed. Our deliveries of bottled water, basic emergency medicines and personal hygiene items had already arrived, but I knew many more people would need our help.

Sadly, many families’ medicine cabinets were destroyed by the floods, and with them critical prescriptions they need to stay healthy. I was tasked with planning our next medical shipment and met with local partners to see what these families needed the most. I also had the opportunity to share some lessons learned from AmeriCares Hurricane Katrina recovery work. 

Our partners informed me that the most urgent needs were insulin, syringes and other items needed to help people with diabetes. Diabetes is a leading killer in Nashville, which has some of the highest rates of the disease in the United States.

More than one out of ten people in Nashville suffer from diabetes, so this was not surprising. (according to the CDC). A life-threatening disease, diabetes causes more American deaths per year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. (according to the American diabetes association).

Working as a team, AmeriCares and our partners responded to this need quickly. We’ve already begun shipping enough insulin and other medical aid to help treat some of the most vulnerable patients. More aid, including a critical supply of safety needles and syringes, arrive in the coming days.

Morgan White is AmeriCares manager of domestic programs. She oversees the distribution of medicines and medical supplies to health clinics serving the poor and uninsured in over 35 states. Since 1984, AmeriCares has delivered more than $100 million worth of lifesaving aid and disaster relief in the United States. AmeriCares has a long history of supporting disaster relief efforts in the U.S. including Hurricane Katrina, which devastated millions of Americans in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast. AmeriCares responded immediately by delivering critically needed medicines, supporting doctors, aiding victims and helping local charities.

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