Local Red Cross on call for Oklahoma relief





Western Kansas American Red Cross volunteers stand at the ready, awaiting word to deploy to Moore, Okla., where they will provide aid to victims of Monday's tornado.

In preparing the Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) for deployment to the area, volunteers Bob and Doris Lewis performed a thorough inspection of it on Monday night.

"It requires an inspection to make sure everything is shipshape — oil check, gasoline filled up, tires filled — all of the supplies are on the truck and ready to go," Bob Lewis said.

Because search-and-rescue operations are still being conducted, Executive Director Carolyn Henry said volunteers and ERVs are currently on standby.

"It's so hard during search and rescue because they will not allow many people to come in during that time," Henry said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no word had been sent to the local chapter about when to deploy their two ERVs, one located in Garden City and the other in Hays.

"The only thing is we do not like them traveling at night, so if we haven't had the call by ,say, 2:30 or 3 p.m., they will not go today," Henry said.

Kimberly Nading, disaster specialist, said both ERVs require a crew of two each. Those volunteers will deploy to Oklahoma, once they receive word to do so.

"Our volunteers typically run on a two-week deployment. Some stay as long as three weeks, but it's usually a two-week requirement," Nading said.

The ERVs are used to serve food to people displaced from their homes.

"If you were at home without electricity or gas, you'd be happy to see our truck go through with meals," Bob Lewis said.

Neither of the Lewises are making the trip to Moore, but both have served food at several other disaster sites since they became volunteers in 2002.

"It's so sad to see the victims of these disasters, but it's such an elation to us to be able to help," Bob Lewis said.

Henry said a disaster of this magnitude may take months to clean up, so the Red Cross will remain there as long as needed.

In addition to feeding people, Red Cross volunteers perform a variety of other functions, including sheltering, bookkeeping and logistical planning.

"We have mental health people there, we have ... (nurses) there," she said. "Moore, for a lot of them, it's really, really very devastating at this time because this is their third tornado since 1999, so many of them are looking back at what has happened over the years, and mentally, it has taken its toll on them, as it would anyone. But after going through three of them — I cannot even imagine."

Henry recommended people download the tornado app offered by the Red Cross. She used the app to track the storm Monday and said it gave her peace of mind being able to check on her son, who lives in Edmond, Okla., located just 20 minutes from Moore.

"But it also prepared me to know that we were going to have to respond to Moore and that it would be quite devastating," Henry said.

She encourages people to download the app, which is free.

"Go to your app store and go to Red Cross. There are several apps there. The tornado one is the one I use. It also rings into your home if there's a warning in your area. It's a wonderful, wonderful app," Henry said, adding that it also has instructions on how to prepare for tornadoes and what to do after a twister hits.

Henry said their office has received a lot of calls from people wanting to help tornado victims financially. She said monetary gifts are recommended over donated items.

"We appreciate people wanting to give non-monetary donations, but we do not have the people or the space down in Oklahoma to be able to accept those items, because (many) people don't even have a place to live," she said. "So we ask that people donate to the Red Cross to help the victims of Moore."

A contribution of $10 helps feed one child or adult per day.

"Ten dollars adds up tremendously in an event like this when a lot of people are helping. If you donate right now, that's already helping them," Henry said.

There are several ways people can donate — by texting Red Cross to 90999; visiting www.redcross.org and clicking on donate funds; or by donating to the local Red Cross, located at 210 Fulton Terrace.

For more information, call 276-2762 or (800) RED-CROSS.

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