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LifeSkills greeting people seeking support at FEMA & Fulfillment Center

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 12:51 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Four thousand people were displaced by the severe storms and tornadoes that ripped through Bowling Green on December 11. Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged, many of them destroyed.

Storm survivors who are eligible can now apply for federal aid to repair and rebuild. FEMA is set up inside the old Sears location at Greenwood Mall to help walk them through the process. When they arrive, LifeSkills employees will greet them at the door.

Melanie Watts is Director of Community Engagement at LifeSkills. “We’re the community mental health center for this region, and so we kind of felt like that was our place to be from the get-go.” Watts said they are helping people as they come in, helping to assess their needs and who they need to talk to. “We’re just there to help in any shape or form.”

Watts said many people affected are still in a state of shock, and LifeSkills will help them with the first steps they need to take to get assistance. That includes those who may need therapy or counseling in the months to come. “We’re just there to talk to people right now. We expect this to have a ripple effect many months down the road,” said Watts. She said it’s not just those who lost family members or homes in the natural disaster, but also those indirectly affected including first responders, the media, teachers, students, and others who saw the devastation up close. “Those are triggers that you might see six months from now and we’re going to be there for people to talk to, if needed.”

Watts also shared advice for self-care during this stressful time. She said talking about your feelings, allowing yourself to cry, exercising, and being willing to accept help can be good coping measures. As a former police officer, Watts said she knows the emotional toll this has taken on first responders, and spoke to the strength of the people of Bowling Green. “It’s a lot for this community, but this community is strong.”

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