'These are self-reliant people, and proud of it'

OSO, Wash. -- Slide survivors, relatives of the victims, and emergency responders have expressed gratitude for the continuous stream of donations that have come in every form.

But the culture of those who live in the beautiful and relatively remote communities of Oso and Darrington may lead to a reluctance to accept some of the assistance being offered.

"These are self-reliant people, and proud of it," said Cherene Graber, a member and organizer of Oso Community Chapel, a small congregation just a few miles from the slide.

"It's a little harder for self-reliant people to accept what they would consider charity from people who really just want to give out of the kindness of their hearts," she said.

Oso Community Chapel has been accepting donations on behalf of the survivors and others affected by the slide.

They've been overwhelmed by the generosity of their members, and by strangers who want to help.

"We hardly have room for all the donations coming in," Cherene said. "But it says so much about what this community is all about."

She was aware of the visit by the Administrator of FEMA and the Secretary of Homeland Security. Federal officials toured the slide scene today and pledged to provide the resources to help the families and towns to rebuild.

Cherene says some residents have a hard enough time asking for help from locals, let alone the federal government.

"That pride in self, that I'm not going to go necessarily ask unless I absolutely have to. And even then it's going to be difficult."

One church elder pointed out that some relatives of the deceased and the missing are upset with FEMA, after the agency allegedly tried to prevent family members from searching for their loved ones.

Local authorities tried to keep relatives away out of the slide area initially. Law enforcement and search and rescue officials eventually compromised and allowed relatives and other local residents to work with official crews.

Cherene said the church is trying to be a resource that helps direct families to all of the organizations and agencies that are offering assistance. That includes FEMA.

She thinks some of the negative feelings and distrust can be overcome.

"It's just hard at times to go and ask, go to a government agency and say, okay, this is what I need, when you're used to providing for yourself."

Federal officials are urging all those affected by the slide to apply for FEMA assistance. They point out, you cannot get help if you don't apply.