World Vision responds to deadly Washington mudslide

Story by John Iwasaki / Photos by Reed Slattery

Make a one-time donation to our U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us respond quickly and effectively to life-threatening emergencies right here in the United States, like the recent mudslide in Washington.

Mike Wold, a warehouse specialist for World Vision, hands a box of personal hygiene items to a volunteer.

Ever since he came to Oso Community Chapel four years ago, Pastor Gary Ray says his "big desire is to do more than the Sunday morning service."

That's happening through his new partnership with World Vision after a deadly mudslide swept through the remote community of Oso, Washington, on March 22.

World Vision made an initial delivery of 125 clean-up kits, 156 personal hygiene kits, and 300 family food kits to Ray's church on March 25 from its warehouse in Fife, Washington. Oso Community Chapel is receiving donations from the community and churches in the nearby Arlington area and will be a distribution center for disaster survivors.

Employees of Puget Sound Energy and JPMorgan Chase assembled the hygiene kits delivered to Oso. PSE employees built more than 900 total hygiene kits last year, with kit supplies purchased through a $10,000 grant awarded to World Vision by the Puget Sound Energy Foundation.

As of April 17, authorities had confirmed 39 deaths, with 4 still missing.

"The community is still in shock," Ray said. "There is great uncertainty about the stability of the slide, the river conditions, and the future for [Washington] State Route 530. But the community is holding together—I've seen neighbor help neighbor and some optimism even in the eyes of [the] hurting."

The disaster hit Ray's church of about 80 attendees hard in the community 55 miles northeast of Seattle..

Pastor Gary Ray of Oso Community Chapel is partnering with World Vision to serve disaster survivors.

"Over 90 percent know somebody who really suffered," either in lives lost or property damaged, he said.

As the only church in Oso, Ray said, "Oso Community Chapel has a real opportunity reach out in tangible ways to show the love of Christ. Emergency response resources, such as the materials that World Vision supplies, allows our church to respond quickly and address immediate needs." With continued support, the church plans to be "a significant part of community rebuilding many months from now," he added.

"I do know people who have lost everything," said Jolane Stroh, whose family—and horses, dogs, and cats—were evacuated but have since returned home. "People come together in times like this."

In its heyday, Oso was a logging town. But now, "economically, this region is really in decline," Ray said, with unemployment double the national average. "Being in a disaster area really hits hard."

The mudslide swept over Washington State Route 530, cutting off direct access to Arlington, Everett, and Interstate 5 for those living to the east of the disaster.

Even those with homes and jobs are affected, said Ray: "Some people have to make a 60-or-so-mile detour to [get to work in] Everett. It's going to be devastating to family budgets."

Police block access to Washington Highway 530, where a mudslide down the road killed at least 16 people.

Oso Community Chapel will "serve as a hub of resources for the area as families start to put their lives back together," said Reed Slattery, manager of World Vision's field site in Fife.

"We always look for strong partners on the ground that are well connected in the community and know the need," Slattery said. "We will walk with Pastor Ray through this process and help him to meet the needs as they arise."

Other supplies are being gathered at the warehouse, including face masks, blankets, and gloves.

The focus will be on basic supplies for now, Slattery said. Down the road, World Vision plans to assist survivors in the area with building materials as they rebuild their lives and find new places to live.

World Vision's domestic disaster response program prepares for disasters, develops emergency networks, trains communities to respond, solicits donated essential items, and supports a network of churches and strategic partners.

In FY2013, World Vision provided direct and indirect disaster relief to nearly 80,000 children, youth, and adults in the U.S. The organization responded to tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas and flooding in Colorado, and continued long-term rebuilding efforts for survivors of Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and tornadoes near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Deploying Supplies to disaster survivors

How Can You Help Now?

Pray for children, families, and communities affected by the Washington mudslide. Pray for those who lost loved ones and/or property. Also pray that those impacted would find the help they need.

Make a one-time donation to our U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us respond quickly and effectively to life-threatening emergencies right here in the United States.


World Vision also is seeking volunteers at its Pacific Northwest warehouse in Fife, Washington, to support the organization's relief efforts. Volunteers will help sort, prepare, and pack cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and other supplies. (Volunteers also are welcome throughout the year to help with our ongoing warehouse needs.)