(Fort Myers, FL) Major Tom Louden, Area Commander for The Salvation Army in Lee, Hendry & Glades Counties, has been appointed to serve as Incident Commander for The Salvation Army’s relief efforts in Oklahoma. He arrived in Moore this afternoon.
Major Louden spoke with us by phone from Oklahoma. He says, "the devastation is far more than what you would be able to see on a TV screen or printed picture, it is more than even your eyes can take in."
He says they have a lot of work ahead of them to meet everyone's emotional, spiritual, and basic needs.
"I don't think we have actually seen the peak of the call for need for the Salvation Army ministry and mission just yet, I think that's going to happen this week," he says.
He says it's an emotional experience to see the destruction first hand. "We were transitioning with the folks that were the first responders, the ones who were here within an hour of the tornado making landfall, for some this was the first opportunity for them to express their emotions and that began to move all of us."
He says the challenge now will be to form a team that can meet the long-term needs of the communities. He says many people are now being allowed back into their neighborhoods. "The people here in Oklahoma are deeply grateful for all the help and support that's coming. It's such a privilege for me to be a part of it and represent Southwest Florida."
Louden says he'll be in Oklahoma for about two weeks, but the Salvation Army will stay until it can meet everyone's needs. He says the organization has about 80 staff members on site.
The Salvation Army leader has previously served in this capacity, most recently as Incident Commander for the Salvation Army's response to the tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi in May 2011. He was also in Oklahoma City during the 1999 EF-5 tornado.