Local man helps tornado victims

Captain Chas Engel, of the Salvation Army in Williamsport, recently returned from a 10-day mission in Oklahoma, where he helped those impacted by the recent tornadoes and severe storms.

Engel has spent more than five decades working with the organization and is part of a select group of officers with special training in counseling victims of natural disasters.

During this trip, Engel’s journey took him to Moore, Oklahoma City, and Henrietta.

In Moore, he spent much of his time serving meals in the canteen and speaking with victims. One day, he noticed a young man outside watching the family dog while his mother and father were eating in the canteen. There was a line to get into the building, and many had waited five to six hours to receive their meal. So Engel brought the teenager some food and had a brief chat with him.

“He stands out to me, because he was feeling responsible and helpless at the same time. The only thing that he could contribute to help was to try and take care of the family’s dog- though I would argue that the dog was taking care of him just as much,” Engel said.

Engel recalled other remarkable stories from survivors. One man was elated because he had dug through the rubble of his home and found his wife’s wedding ring.

“People forget that area has been hit by tornadoes four times over the last 14 years. Some of these people are rebuilding their lives for the second or third time,” he added.

The chaotic nature of tornadoes means that one home may be destroyed while the house next to it remains intact.

Engel visited one family who had managed to repair their home. The wife spent all day sitting in her garage with the door open, staring out at a destroyed landscape.

“She explained that they were the only ones who lived here now, so she sits in that chair all day watching for looters,” Engel said.

In Oklahoma City, Engel helped manage a warehouse distribution center and was moved by the generous donations which poured in from across the nation.

While many have donated food, water, and clothing, Engel explained that cash was the most useful donation. Locals have donated several thousands of dollars to the tornado victims through the city’s chapter of the Salvation Army, he added.

Those who wish to help may send checks or money orders to the Salvation Army with “Oklahoma tornado victims” in the memo line.