Fortunately, no one in the Thomas Young household was hurt when his home was severely damaged by a tornado on March 21. Even more fortunate was that it didn’t take long for the American Red Cross and others in his community to come to his family’s aid.

Homes in Nacogdoches and Rusk counties sustained significant damage during a storm that left downed power lines and trees, as well as homes without roofs shortly before midnight. Young, 69, of Cushing, had just come out of the shower when his son Logan came into his bedroom and him that a twister was bearing down on his home. Thomas, his wife Mary, and Logan took shelter in a closet in the back end of the house. The Youngs escaped injury, but they lost most of the roof and sustained substantial wind and water damage in the front of the house.

 “Fortunately, the closet stayed intact,” said Young, retired after more than 50 years in the oil and gas industry. “The power went off and you could hear the roof peeling off. I also heard my storage building rolling out in the backyard.”

 The house was left with no power, no kitchen or living room and portions of a roof over his bedroom and bathroom. His wife was staying in what he euphemistically called her “she shed” in the back yard while he slept in the master bedroom. He said it wasn’t very long before the Red Cross came to his doorstep to help.

  “They were here before anybody else,” he said. “You’d see Red Cross person one day and then you’d see another the next. They were on site very quick and very helpful getting people signed up for help. They provided me with a debit card with some funds that was helpful.”

 Cushing is in east Texas and has an estimated population of 620. It may be a small town, but it has a big heart. It wasn’t very long before friends and neighbors came by to help clearing debris with chainsaws and tractors, utility crews began repairing power lines, and local restaurants provided free meals for those in need. On the day Young was interviewed, he had just received a payment from his insurance company for the damage to his home, which was considered a total loss. He said things were a long way from being normal, but at least he and his wife could plot a path to move forward from the disaster.

“The availability of community helpers around here was incredible,” Young said. He also praised the Red Cross, saying, “They were very helpful in getting people signed up for help.” His only regret is there aren’t more takers for the “free firewood” cluttering his front lawn.

  The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit or, or follow us on Twitter at @RedCross.

Story by David Guth