RED OAK — More than a month has passed since Donald T. Shields Elementary was directly hit by an EF-3 tornado.
Now, nurses at the temporary campus located at 200 Live Oak Street, are thanking one medical program and the hundreds of volunteers who came out to make the transition to the Shields on Live Oak campus as seamless as possible after the 145-155 mph winds caused major damage to the original campus.
The week following the tornado, hundreds throughout Ellis County and across the nation worked to make a former middle school ready for students to return to class- rooms and hallways. One such program was Faith In Action Initiatives, a Dal- las-based Baylor Scott & White Health North Texas program that coordinates the disaster relief efforts
of Baylor Scott & White Health and gathers physical, medical resources and money to address disasters anywhere in the world.
Shortly after the tornado hit on Dec. 26, Chris York, the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie president, touched based with a local chaplain named Jerry Carter, said Don Sewell, Director of Baylor Scott and White Health’s Faith in Action program. Both knew the school was “terribly dam- aged,” Sewell said, adding another Baylor employee in Dallas mentioned many of the Dallas-Fort Worth Baylor employees com- mute from Waxahachie north.
“The sense of compassion surged from our employees to look to Faith in Action, and we decided we could respond and we’re glad to do so,” Sewell said. “Initially, we had the idea of giving a bed or mattress to a family in need. We didn’t realize the enormity of the problem and how it affected the families and school, so we responded on the grander scale.”
About three days later, Shields nurse Kellie Bodle and Sue Brown, the Red Oak ISD director of health services, and other Red Oak nurses were brought to the Faith in Action Initiatives warehouse to collect blood pressure monitors, gauze, finger splints, syringes, thermometers, arm slings, gloves, scissors and more, Sewell said.
“When the tornado hit, we had some water dam- age. That was our main issue, and the room was in one of the areas that was not as badly harmed, so we were very fortunate,” Brown said. “But we had some equipment we couldn’t bring, and we had some we left behind because we couldn’t get it out. We were able to save a fair amount, luckily. When we first saw the supplies, it was really kind of overwhelming. Everyone was so nice, and everyone was like, ‘We’ll do whatever we can. Any- thing you need, anything you have use for, we want you to take.’ The people there were so welcoming and so warm, and showed us around and helping us find what we did not have.”
“It’s been great. They were there to help and you weren’t just all alone,” Bodle added.
Brown said they pro- gram was just part of the larger picture of people who came to help after the disaster. As workers and volunteers worked to move supplies and prep the temporary campus, the Red Oak nurses set up triage stations for any injuries that might have happened during the transition.
“There was a truck driver there who couldn’t go any further because of the weather, so he stopped and came in to help move supplies,” Brown said, adding volunteer vehicles stretched from the original campus out to Hampton Road. “So people that have no connection to Red Oak heard of us and were here to help. It was such a community effort. It’s just very emotional to think that there were so many people willing to come help our little town.”
The moment was a matter of elation, and showed the spirit of the entire Baylor Scott & White system, Sewell said, adding the health care system’s role is to address the health needs in the community and not the needs of those who solely walk through hospital doors.
“We have extra resources and lots of compassion, and when you apply a little bit of logic and a way to organize it, like with Faith in Action, then that shows our faith in the community,” Sewell said, add- ing the philosophy dates back to 1903 when Baylor founder George Truitt wanted a health center for those of all faiths and those with none. “We’re just as concerned about the Red Oak community as someone who were to walk in our doors.”
That sense of community has been the most important thing for the students the nurses serve every day, they said. The nurses were even able to save familiar posters and artwork the students would be able to recognize from the original campus clinic, including a large heart-shaped cutout with student signatures now hanging behind the Bodle’s desk.
“It’s allowed us to keep going, and keep going as long as possible,” Bodle
said, referring to the donated supplies and the help given. “When the kids come in, a lot of them are scared because they ask, ‘What happens if a tornado hits this build- ing?’ It just all allows us to keep staying at a normal routine, and they value that. So, the supplies are working.”
“The clinic is functioning and keeping our kids healthy, because we have everything that we need,” Brown added.
Contact Shelly Conlon at 469-517- 1456 or email sconlon@waxahachi- etx.com. Follow her on Twitter @ shellyconlonwdl.