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Tribes donate to disaster relief efforts

Tulalip Tribal Board Chair Mel Sheldon Jr., left, presents a check for $100,000 to Chuck Morrison, regional executive director of the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross, on March 26. - Kirk Boxleitner
Tulalip Tribal Board Chair Mel Sheldon Jr., left, presents a check for $100,000 to Chuck Morrison, regional executive director of the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross, on March 26.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

TULALIP — As Tulalip Tribal Board Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. and Vice Chair Deborah Parker extended their thoughts and prayers to those who have been hit by the impact of the Oso mudslide on March 22, they recalled how their own Native American ancestors suffered similar disasters in that same Camano Head area, as recently as the 1800s.

“Our people’s lives were taken away as well, and we remember that history,” said Sheldon, who had just recently caught back up with an old friend who had lived in that area, and who is now among the fatalities incurred by the slide. “We’d planned to go get a cup of coffee together sometime, but that’s obviously not going to happen now. This tragedy has affected everyone.”

To that end, on March 26, not only did Sheldon hand a $100,000 check from the Tribes over to representatives of the American Red Cross of Snohomish County, to assist with food, shelter and other basic needs for the slide survivors and their families, but Parker followed suit by presenting a $50,000 check to representatives of the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation, which is administering a mudslide relief fund.

“The Tulalip peoples send their love and respect to the families who have suffered so much loss,” Parker said. “We understand how difficult it can be to rebuild.”

Sheldon thanked the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors for acting so swiftly in response to the slide.

Chuck Morrison, regional executive director of the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross, explained that this gift from the Tulalip Tribes will help them serve the families of the missing victims of the Oso mudslide, who remain the Red Cross’ primary focus.

“We appreciate your thoughtfulness more than you could possibly know,” said Morrison, who noted that the Red Cross is also striving to address the mental health and spiritual care needs of those affected by this disaster, in addition to feeding hundreds of emergency responders a day.

“We are so humbled, and deeply grateful,” said Heather Logan, hospital representative on the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation Board of Directors. “Throughout this tragedy, we’ve seen neighbors helping neighbors, on a very local level.”

The Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation’s Oso mudslide relief fund also recently received $50,000 from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound, while the Red Cross has received too many unsolicited donations of clothing, blankets and other material items.

“We now have mountains of this stuff, and management of it is delaying our services to the evacuees,” said Morrison, who recommended financial donations instead, while also emphasizing that emergency response crews have all the volunteers they can use for the moment. “The challenge in that case is that we need to train people and have them be mentally prepared to work with grieving families, who might get upset with them. In situations like that, you have to be able to accept that they’re not mad at you, but at what’s happening.”

Morrison thanked the Arlington School District for lending the use of Post Middle School as an emergency response shelter, which has become an overnight home away from home for Darrington residents who don’t want to have to make a two-and-a-half-hour commute around the slide to go to work each morning.

“We have a lab technician at the hospital who’s been waking up at 2 a.m. so that she can show up in time to start her blood draws at 5 a.m.,” Logan said. “That kind of dedication is amazing. The stories you hear just bring you to tears, because it’s not just financial donations, but the whole spirit of giving.”

Logan and Morrison both expressed interest in studying the emergency response procedures of each other’s organizations, to benefit from one another’s unique perspectives.

Tulalip Tribal Emergency Management Director Rochelle James currently serves as first vice chair of the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross Board of Directors, and she’s also served in the Everett Emergency Operations Center of the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management since the Oso mudslide on March 22.

“The Department of Emergency Management has such a large task, not only because of the scope of this disaster, but also because of its layers,” said James, who joined Morrison in receiving the Tulalip Tribes’ check to the Red Cross on March 26. “We’ve been so fortunate for so long in this area, but the aftermath of this slide has just broken my heart every day, and especially with all our federal and state partners pulling together on the local level, we’re trying to find the best ways that people can support these communities, to which they want to give so very much.”

Morrison encouraged Oso mudslide survivors to register with www.safeandwell.org, and those who wish to support the Red Cross’ mudslide relief efforts to make financial contributions via its website at www.redcross.org/wa/everett.

The Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation has since received $100,000 from the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians. Tonya Yanity, wife of Stillaguamish Tribal Council Chair Shawn Yanity, explained that the Tribal Council and Tribal members were driven by the desire to render aid to those in need.

“Our tribe and its people are so greatly connected to this community,” Yanity said. “We are the river people. The Stillaguamish River connects all of us, as it flows from Darrington to Arlington, and out to the sea. We are all impacted, and we are all connected, and our need to help is great.”

The Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation is continuing to accept donations for Oso mudslide relief. All donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of the money received will go to the Oso fund, with no overhead costs. To contribute, you may:

• Log onto www.youcaring.com/ososlide.

• Take or send your donation to Union Bank, P.O. Box 278, Arlington, WA 98223.

• Stop by any Union Bank in Arlington, Smokey Point, Marysville, Everett, Lake Stevens, Stanwood, Snohomish or Monroe.

• Call the Union Bank in Arlington at 360-435-2139, option 4.

• Take or send your donation to the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation, 330 S. Stillaguamish Ave, Arlington, WA 98223.

• Call the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation at 360-618-7805.

Please make checks payable to the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation.

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