April 24, 1998

Relief effort set for storm-tossed staff, faculty

Relief effort set for storm-tossed staff, faculty

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A long line of gurneys was set up outside of VUMC's Emergency Department in preparation for casualties of last week's storm. (Photo by Donna Jones Bailey).

Vanderbilt University and Medical Center have put plans in place to aid staff and faculty who were affected by last week¹s tornadoes, and to accept contributions to a special fund to help victims.

"It¹s important that we in the Vanderbilt family stick together and help each other in times of trouble," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs. "Any one of us could have been a victim of this disaster, and those of us who were spared significant damage should have a chance to help those who were not as lucky."

Jacobson announced that staff and faculty who were affected by the tornado are eligible for:

o Up to three days of time off as approved by supervisors or department heads. These days should be used to take care of affairs, such as meeting with insurance adjusters or making repairs, and will not count against sick time or vacation time.

o Referral to the Faculty/Staff Hardship Fund Emergency Relief Effort, which can make cash grants to staff and faculty who were affected by the tornado. Needs that will be considered include short-term housing, transportation needs, emergency repairs, and any other disaster-based need. While the Hardship Fund is available to staff and faculty at any time through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), the special Emergency Relief Effort has been set up specifically for tornado victims.

o Food vouchers for free meals for themselves and their dependents in the Courtyard Cafe and Rand Dining Room through May 8. This voucher program is also being administered through the EAP.

o Counseling through the EAP for staff and faculty.

The EAP hotline number is 936-HELP.

The East Nashville area, which was hardest hit by the Thursday, April 16, tornado, is less than five miles from Vanderbilt, and the corridor along the Charlotte Avenue/Sylvan Park area, which was also hard hit, is even closer. Among the other affected areas was the Hermitage neighborhood, in the eastern part of Davidson County.

Zip code figures from Human Resource Services indicate that several hundred Vanderbilt staff and faculty live in or near areas where the tornado touched down.

"Right now we don¹t know how many people from the Medical Center may be affected, but we¹re committed to doing what we can to help," Jacobson said.

Information from Human Resource Services advising department heads on details of how to access the Emergecy Relief Effort has been prepared and will be available Friday, April 24.

Vanderbilt staff and faculty who would like to contribute to the Staff/Faculty Hardship Fund Emergency Relief Effort may do so at collection points in the Courtyard Cafe, the Vanderbilt Hair Salon, and other areas around campus, as well as through payroll deduction, credit card, or direct contribution (see accompanying article).

Vanderbilt staff, faculty, and students have been involved in many phases of the relief and cleanup efforts in the aftermath of the tornado, including donating food, offering counseling to victims through the Mental Health Response Team, and donating blood at a Wednesday blood drive in the name of Vanderbilt undergraduate Kevin Longinotti, who was injured during the storm when a tree fell on him in Centennial Park. Longinotti remained in critical condition in intensive care at VUMC at press time.