EDS Volunteers Support Barrie Residents and Frontline Workers at Tornado Scene

by Caroline Franks
Categories: Divisional News

After the tornado roared through southeast Barrie Ontario on July 15, The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) team of volunteers were on site to provide practical, emotional and spiritual support.

Ron vanDeursen leads a group of 32 EDS volunteers in Orillia. Three of those volunteers made the trip to Barrie last Saturday with a canteen truck to hand out food, water and snacks, as well as to provide emotional and spiritual care.

Ron is an Ontario Provincial Police officer and when he first heard about the tornado, his team loaded up the brand-new canteen truck and hit the road for Barrie to help those in need. They set up shop at the command post at Saint Gabriel Catholic School alongside other community groups, helping about 150 people in two hours.

“I spoke with the on-site police commander, and he told us that they would take all the help they could get to hand out food and drinks. They are familiar with The Salvation Army, and they know we can provide organized help to get the job done properly,” said vanDeursen, who is a 10-year EDS veteran volunteer with The Salvation Army.

Reactions from residents affected by the tornado ranged from looks of shock, to quiet contemplation to acceptance and concern for others whose homes received more damage. Each EDS team member is trained to react to any situation, whether it be running the canteen, direct people to other services, or to simply be there to listen and provide support.

“Some of the homeowners just had a blank stare. You could wave your hands in front of their face and there was just blank stare. You could see all the different responses from the people that were impacted. Everyone is at a different level, but we are always there to help.” vanDeursen said.

He said many of the EDS volunteers have experience in the street ministry program which all ows them to make a small difference in the lives of people going through a time of extreme vulnerability. But no amount of training and previous experience can prepare a volunteer for every situation they encounter.

“If we can be there to ease the burden and keep their minds in a positive state that shows we can get through this together. There are resources we can access and quickly identify what they need and get help for them to get them on the path to recovery,” vanDeursen said.

By Chris McGregor