Oklahomans helped by the American Red Cross after the horrific tornado on May 20 are grateful for the assistance and support amidst the devastation.
"The Red Cross, everyday that I have been here, the Red Cross truck and the volunteers have been up and down the street on an hourly basis" said Ed Steiner, whose Moore, Oklahoma home was severely damaged. "I know they had 17 miles to take care of – there’s 17 miles of destruction. No matter where you are, there is a Red Cross truck."
Ed and Diane Steiner are two of the thousands who have received help from the Red Cross. The couple survived the storm in a small closet, the most interior room of their home.
"It was pretty fast after we got home,” Mrs. Steiner said. “He heard the tornado. You could feel the house being torn apart and I think that tiny space saved us." They were trapped in the closet for about thirty minutes until a woman came to help them break out of the debris.
The Steiners, who are Red Cross donors, have been amazed how far their donor dollar goes. "You give to the Red Cross and you don't really know where it’s going, but we've been able to see it first hand," Mrs. Steiner said.
HELP AT MARC CENTER Minutes after the tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, a frantic Elizabeth Perez arrived at Plaza Towers Elementary High School to pick up her 11-year-old daughter Jennifer after the tornado destroyed the school.
Fortunately her husband had already gotten their daughter, and she was safe at her dad’s home. But sadly two of her classmates had to face the loss of a younger brother and others suffered broken limbs.
The mother and daughter are among the hundreds of people who have visited the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) that the Red Cross and partner agencies set up in Westmoore High School in Moore to help residents affected by the tornado. The center is one of four MARCs opened in the impacted areas where residents can access assistance from different government, not-for-profit and religious organizations. The other three centers are located in the communities of Shawnee, Carney and Norman.
Perez found out about the centers through a Red Cross volunteer that visited her neighborhood in one of 45 emergency response vehicles (ERVs) that have been distributing food, meals and cleaning supplies throughout the affected areas. “A Red Cross worker, with her red vest, went by asking if we had received assistance,” said Isabel Rodriguez, a friend and housemate of Elizabeth’s. “We then received a follow-up from the Red Cross office.”
So the trio arrived at the MARC in Moore where they were able to meet with a mental health specialist from the Red Cross and access the services of the other agencies present at the center. “The Red Cross suggested we come here for help, so here we are,” added Rodriguez.
VOLUNTEERS HELPING Hundreds of Red Cross disaster volunteers from all over the country have deployed to Oklahoma to help the people whose lives are turned upside down after the tornadoes. Jim Shew, a resident of Swedesboro, New Jersey, is one of them.
Describing the scene in Moore, Shew said, “Everything is destroyed. I saw developments just gone. You could see right where it went right across the highway.” Shew is working aboard one of the 45 Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs), delivering food and relief items to residents in this difficult time. Twice a day, trucks are loaded with meals from the Southern Baptist Convention kitchens and Shew’s team heads to the area most affected by the storm.
Some people are staying with family or friends, but others have tents set up where their homes once stood. “They’re looking for a blanket or people wanting an air mattress to sleep in their tent,” Shew said. “A nurse finding an air mattress made that person’s whole day. It was sunshine today because of that.”
Shew saw volunteers from all over the country come to New Jersey to help after Sandy and is happy to help those individuals out in turn. “There’s no way the locals can do it alone,” he said. “The locals here are tremendous, but when you have a disaster like an EF5 tornado, there’s just no way you can do it on your own.”
HOW TO HELP You can help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises by making a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. You can donate by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your donation helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters.