Relief societies pitch in nearly $2 million to help Guam troops recover from typhoon
Stars and Stripes June 8, 2023
As Typhoon Mawar slammed into Guam on May 24, Kimberly Wasson hunkered down with her three children; within days of the winds and rain subsiding, she jumped into action alongside her fellow Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society volunteers.
As Guam slowly recovers in the aftermath of the strongest storm to hit the U.S. island territory since 2002, the relief society and other charitable organizations are stepping up to help service members deal with the fallout.
“Even though I’m without, I understand that people have a lot less than I do,” Wasson told Stars and Stripes in a video call Thursday. “I think for all of us, it makes you grateful for what you maybe took for granted before; the simple pleasures of life are actually great luxuries.”
Volunteers have worked nearly non-stop to provide monetary assistance to active-duty sailors, Marines and retirees on Guam. As of Thursday, the society had provided more than 2,500 people with more than $1.1 million in assistance, according to Karen Fahland, the organization’s director on Guam.
“What we’re trying to do as an organization is to provide some relief, even if it’s small,” Fahland told Stars and Stripes in a video call Thursday. “Everybody is dealing with this, everybody’s working with it, and it’s just an amazing testament to my organization and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”
Single service members or retirees are eligible for an immediate $300 in assistance, and families are eligible for $600, Fahland said, and while the amount is relatively small it allows people to deal with immediate needs such as gas and food.
“After that, we’re looking at recovery. If they have additional damages that an insurance policy does not cover, we’ll go from there,” she said. “We will definitely look at helping. This is not the end; this is going to be a long road.”
The application process is easy and requires just a simple form and presentation of military or retiree identification, Fahland said, though applicants may face long lines. The initial turnout was so overwhelming that commanders from Naval Base Guam and Marine Corps Camp Blaz assigned personnel to help process applications.
One volunteer, Jo Miller, normally works with the relief society just two days a week but since the typhoon has been helping every day.
“I have the time, and a lot of these other volunteers can’t come as often,” she said by video June 2. “I’ve been determined to come every day that I could.”
The society also provides other services, such as a visiting nurse program that focuses on new or expectant mothers and a thrift store for those in need of furniture or other goods, Fahland said, but as a nonprofit society, it relies heavily on donations to stay afloat.
“I know there are people out there that are asking ‘How can we help?’” she said, adding that mail delivery is unreliable for now and the relief society doesn’t have a way to distribute care packages. “To be honest, the best way to help would be to donate to our organization and let us do the help.”
The relief society isn’t alone in assisting Guam residents and military families.
The Air Force Aid Society, as of Tuesday, has provided $715,200 in grants to airmen and dependents and retirees on Guam, the Air Force Times reported Wednesday. Other programs, such as Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and Navy Federal Credit Union are offering several emergency relief options, according to their respective websites.
Navy Federal has options that include special credit card offers, assistance on existing loans and relief loans up to $5,000. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance is offering loans up to $6,000, with options to convert portions of those loans to grants.