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Oklahoma Tornado Giving Stalls at Only 1 Percent of Way to Progress

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On May 20, time stood still, and everything we in Oklahoma City thought we knew ceased to be. On that morning in Moore, Okla., a rare EF5 tornado decimated our homes, schools, families, and our community. Just two weeks later, the unthinkable happened. Another EF5 tornado, along with two smaller ones, ravaged our hometown. The combined destruction of both storms has left thousands of people homeless or in need, living in fear of the next disaster, rebuilding their lives piece by piece out of the rubble.

We are grieving inconceivable losses, but we are also comforted and inspired by our nation's commitment to help during a tragedy. For each of you who have already given so much, thank you. We'll never be able to thank every single generous donor directly, but we want you to know how deeply and positively your contributions have helped our community.

At Feed The Children, many of our own employees lost their homes, but they continued to work to make things a little easier for others. We, together with all of the charities in Oklahoma, are intensely focused on allocating everything that has been donated to those in need of help and hope.

We are under no illusions about the pace of recovery. The damage is great: after these violent storms, more than 8,000 individuals have registered with FEMA for relief. Eleven weeks later -- through in-kind, monetary and supply donations -- we have collected less than one percent of the estimated $2 billion in losses among our community.

For areas in the disaster zone, the physical damage will remain for years. For people who've suffered losses, the emotional damage will last for a lifetime. We know this from our work in Joplin, Missouri. Today in Joplin, more than two years after a deadly tornado hit their town, families and individuals are still displaced from their homes. Critical institutions including hospitals are still being repaired. People still lose their bearings because of missing landmarks, erased by the tornado.

Many in our country may not realize that full recovery will take years. We and organizations like us see this pattern repeated time and again. We call it the disaster recovery life cycle and it looks like this:

Donations of all kinds flood in during the first week after a disaster. To manage the donations, the communities affected form local recovery committees -- comprised of city officials, organizations like Feed The Children, churches and more -- to store, ration and distribute these resources to address immediate needs. After a few weeks, the camera crews and reporters drive away and the spotlight leaves. Our national attention moves elsewhere, and the flood of support fades to a trickle, or disappears entirely. People stop asking, "How can I help?" It all happens at the very moment that the recovery committees shift their focus to meeting the long-term needs of individuals and families for housing, furniture, and transportation.

The people of Oklahoma need your help now more than ever. We need you to keep giving and stay engaged with the recovery. As you choose organizations to support in their work to help Oklahoma victims, ask potential candidates how, where and when contributions will be used. Ask how long that organization plans to be on the ground to help here -- because the needs will be long term.

We can beat the disaster recovery life cycle this time. But we cannot do it alone. We need you.