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An inside look at the Salvation Army’s disaster relief response

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Posted at 9:38 PM, Apr 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-04 21:38:59-04

WHITELAND -- The Salvation Army has helped 1,100 people and handed out 600 meals in Whiteland as of Monday. Whiteland is still recovering from the EF3 tornado that ripped through the community.

Michael Thomas has helped with disaster relief for several years. He says aiding this time has been challenging for the salvation army.

"It's hit so many places throughout Indiana and so it's kind of spread resources thin,” Michael Thomas a major with the Salvation Army said. “We've done well because we've been able to work with the other agencies to get the resources we need but the biggest challenge is just the multiple tornadoes.”

When the Salvation Army first gets to a disaster-stricken area, they work with public officials to find out where their help is needed the most.

Salvation Army major Michael Thomas guides WRTV on the day in the life of post-storm activities.

"Typically, when we get to a disaster site the first thing we do is we check with the local officials and find out what were the hardest hit areas and then to see what areas are available to get in to,” Thomas said. “That's so important because very often the power lines are down and there are trees and such and we want to make sure we're safe."

Once the Salvation Army is able to get into a neighborhood with their mobile units they begin asking people what they need. In Whiteland, many people are still trying to figure out what those needs are.

"Right now, we are down all of our vehicles,” Johnathan Ross whose home was damaged during the tornado said. “I still don't even know what’s lost."

Thomas says there can be times that interacting with people can be sad, especially when there are things outside of tornado victims' control.

"A young man had tears in his eyes when I was talking with him the other day,” Thomas said. “He said 'I've lost everything but yet people came by and looted that's heart breaking.''"

However, Thomas says seeing the community coming together is always inspiring. Other people in the community agree with this and are grateful for the support.

A Salvation Army mobile unit reads "Hope is on the way."

"They are on the money. They were here,” Cathy Villarreal whose home was damaged in a tornado said. “They were here for people, and I can't say that enough.”


  • If you are dealing with a natural disaster, the Salvation Army can help you pay your utility bill, rent, or assist with your mortgage payment.
  • If you are in need of help, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or click here.
  • If you would like to donate to the Salvation Army click here.

As for other counties, The Salvation Army of Sullivan has served 1,200 meals to workers and survivors since early Saturday morning. Meals continue to be prepared by volunteers at First Christian Church and resources continue to be staged at that location.