What an amazing year it has been since the tornado devastated my hometown in May of last year. We have had so many people from literally all over the world come to share in the charity. Rebuilding efforts have been much faster than would be expected given the vast destruction that took place. It will probably take several years for our town to return to some semblance of normal.
On the morning of May 22, 2011, I was in the process of launching the ‘America Goes Local’ movement that I had been revving up in the months prior. It was over two years in the making. I uploaded the announcement video explaining the project along with a plan to do a social media blast the following morning. Six hours later, the tornado hit my home. The essence of America Goes Local was launched in my own backyard out of sheer necessity.
I obviously had to postpone the website (my web designer’s home was hit as well) in order to reach out and help my neighbors. Our town was also in need of those who could help organize and coordinate relief efforts, so I became heavily involved with this as well. I had experience doing this with hurricane Katrina, as well as doing community organizing and service projects over the years. That translated into 18 hour days for two weeks immediately following the tornado. I was able to trim back to 10-12 hour days for the next five months until the completion of the Extreme Home Makeover project, of which I was involved as well.
About a month into the relief efforts, I had begun to develop respiratory issues from spending significant amounts of time in the devastated areas. There were concerns about air quality, especially mold issues. I began to have difficulty breathing off and on for the next several months. I began to take precautionary steps to try to alleviate these problems, but they would gradually become worse.
During the Extreme Makeover project, I knew I was going to have to take a break from everything. My breathing was getting worse and I was having signs of mold poisoning. When it was over at the end of October 2011, I would go on a treatment program for the next several months.
I have gradually improved since, although I still have some challenges. I never knew the kind of havoc toxic molds can create inside a person’s body. Twelve people died early on from infection with a rare mold species. Several volunteers had developed minor respiratory problems during their stay, but most had spent a week or less in the area and hadn’t had enough exposure to create serious problems. My spending over 5 months in the area was enough to become rather serious.
In mid January of this year, my grandfather’s health began to seriously decline. He was like a father to me, and so I spent the last several weeks of his life in Texas helping to take care of him. Within a couple weeks of his death, another close, immediate member of my family’s health began to come into question.
Because of the flexibility I have in my life (single and self-employed), I have again taken on the responsibility of helping during this time of difficulty in their life. It is consuming much of my time, as her health has continued to decline. As much as I am anxious to get started again with America Goes Local, I must put first things first. Of course, I must first be an example of what the movement is about. Taking care of family will always be my number one priority.
I will be back in the saddle this coming Spring. I can’t put an exact date on it, for I will also have to put some pieces of my life back together, since I have abandoned my own to help my neighbors, friends, and family restore theirs.
I am no stranger to adversity, and this past year has been just a continuation of many years of struggle. Losing my home to the tornado didn’t really phase me, for I have lost everything before. Fifteen years ago I was in an automobile accident that would send my health into a downward spiral that has been a battle to this day. The driver at fault had a revoked license and no insurance, so I ended up losing everything in order to pay my own health expenses.
I know that just as He has in the past 15 years, the Lord will carry me through this period of my life. I have learned that Christ is always sufficient. America Goes Local will launch in the Spring of 2013, and we’ll update you by email. There will be some exciting changes from the original plan, and I am currently working on those along with a new website (site was being used for tornado relief info this past year). When it launches, it will be worth all the struggle, more glorious than anyone could ever have imagined. I can’t wait to get started on our journey together…