Harveyville residents receive help from locals after struck by EF2 tornado
Story and photos by Carolyn Kaberline
Perry-Lecompton High School industrial arts teacher Pat Winchester and former Oskaloosa resident Donald Wagner are among Knights of Columbus members who are helping Harveyville residents return to a normal life.
The two have been passing out vouchers from the Knights of Columbus Emergency Disaster Aid Program to those whose houses were destroyed or severely damaged during the Feb. 28 EF2 tornado which struck the town.
“We handed out vouchers for $150 each to those whose homes received a significant amount of damage,” Winchester, Knights of Columbus state advocate, said.
“The area we went through was pretty devastated,” Wagner, Knights of Columbus Charities Aid president, said, describing some of the damage. “Only the front step of the only church in town was left, and there was one house built on a slab where only the bathtub and stool remained.”
Both Wagner and Winchester noted that all members of the Knights of Columbus in the state contribute to EDAP, which began in the early 1970s. The 264 councils in the state support the program through a variety of fundraisers, which include breakfasts, dinners, and numerous other activities. The fund is designed to help those who have been the victims of fires, floods, storms or other disasters.
The Knights of Columbus members set up the vouchers for Harveyville through the Walmart stores in Topeka.
Winchester noted that while the Red Cross was handing out snacks and water to those living in Harveyville and those helping clean up the town, Walmart staff were also there cooking meals. In addition, Walmart arranged for store clerks to redeem the vouchers right at the cash register instead of having recipients go through customer service.
“The vouchers are designed to help purchase food, clothing, medicine, and other incidentals,” Wagner said, adding that one Harveyville resident was especially grateful for the voucher, explaining that he’d worn the same clothes for three days. Wagner added that voucher amounts depended on the number needing aid in a disaster and the amount of funds available.
Wagner noted that the Harveyville city clerk had been very helpful in finding individuals who needed the vouchers.
“We normally try to find someone in the area to help us locate individuals and families needing aid,” Wagner said, adding that the knights had returned to Harveyville a couple of times to make sure that anyone needing the vouchers had received them. “We’ve handed out 46 vouchers so far and still have a few to give out.”
Wagner said that the initial contact came through Walter Henrie, a Knights of Columbus member from Harveyville, who belonged to a Knights council in Osage City.
“There’s been an overwhelming amount of support for Harveyville,” Winchester said, explaining that law enforcement from Leavenworth, Wabaunsee and Miami Counties were on the scene while Wagner added that one of the Knights helping had come from Oklahoma and another from Greeley, Kansas.
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