Plaza Towers Elementary School – courtesy Juanita Limas
Plans to travel across the country were put on hold when images of Moore, Oklahoma came across Juanita Limas’s TV screen. She knew there was something more than personal enjoyment she needed this summer. She needed to help.
Limas, a faculty member in Kirkwood Community College’s Math/Science department, will spend up to a month in Oklahoma, in the wake of the EF-5 tornado that killed 24 people on May 20.
“I had an extensive summer vacation already planned,” said Limas. “I was going to travel across the country and go backpacking and sightseeing for a few weeks but after seeing the coverage on the news, I decided to cancel my summer vacation and travel to Oklahoma to see if there was anything I could do.
“I just couldn’t see spending all that time and money traveling alone when there are so many people that need help.”
Employees in Kirkwood’s Math/Science and Nursing departments gave her money to buy bottled water, diapers, wipes, toilet paper and other necessities to bring for the tornado victims.
“It speaks to not only Juanita’s character, but the character of people here at Kirkwood,” said Math/Science Dean Lori Woeste. “The care and compassion of our employees goes far beyond what’s being taught in the classrooms. We’re all proud of Juanita for giving up her summer plans to volunteer and help those in need.”
Her first morning in Oklahoma, Limas met up with an organization, Mercy Chefs, that makes food for those affected by disasters and the volunteers helping them.
“Because they had some Spanish speaking families there, and I was in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, they asked if I wouldn’t mind riding in the back of a pickup truck delivering food, water and supplies to them,” said Limas. “I offered the supplies I brought down from Iowa. We loaded up a truck, went out to the community, and delivered hot meals and supplies.”
The next few days Limas spent her time preparing meals and helping out where she could. She said Mercy Chefs leaves the area the first weekend in June. At that time she plans to move to an outlying community damaged by the storm, possibly Shawnee or Norman, and volunteer there.
“People are shell shocked right now. There is such a sense of despair it’s hard to put into words until you see the damage,” said Limas. “It’s hard to walk away from this every day and not feel something.”
Limas said with the flooding concerns in Iowa, she may cut her time in Oklahoma short, coming back to eastern Iowa next week to help with sandbagging and any other flooding needs.