JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Within hours of the massive tornado leveling blocks of Moore, Okla., the Red Cross of Oklahoma activated its safe and well website for those who are trying to reconnect with loved ones. Red Cross officials and volunteers are also began to open shelters -- the first at St. Andrews Church.
Local Red Cross chapters are standing by to help. The Red Cross of Oklahoma will compile a list of its needs and that list is sent out to chapters nationwide. Each chapter responds with what resources it can meet.
"Our resources and volunteers are ready to go," said Christian Smith, director of public support with the Red Cross Jacksonville chapter. "Our emergency response vehicles are ready to go, but it's a holding pattern until they say, 'We need you," we wait."
The Red Cross needs financial donations for their relief efforts. You can donate via text, their website or by calling the Red Cross directly:
- Text "redcross" to 90999 on your cell phone to give $10
- Visit RedCross.org
- Call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767)
Smith said the Red Cross doesn't accept donated items because the fastest way to get these people exactly what they need is through monetary donations.
"That allows us the flexibility because we're doing things like sheltering and feeding and counseling and providing those really basic needs, and so when you put people in a sheltering environment and you do large scale feeding operations or you go into communities and pass out clean up kits and things of that nature, financial resources allow us to have those on the ground immediately," said Smith.
The days ahead are grave for the people of Oklahoma and the need for help will be great. There are several other organizations already mobilizing on the ground in Moore, and you can help as well through these other groups:
The Salvation Army has also jumped into action. It's in multiple locations throughout cities in Oklahoma providing food, hydration and emotional support to first responders and storm survivors.
"We were called this morning," said Major Dean Hinson, area commander. "Major Ron Mott, the officer down in St. Augustine has been called out to be one of the spiritual-care officers, and a team of six are going from Florida. They're making those arrangements right now and they'll be there providing the help as they need more they may could call in cantines."
You can contribute to the Salvation Army by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769), visiting their website, texting "STORM" to 80888 to make an automatic $10 donation, or by mail:
The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK 73157
The Florida Baptist Convention has already sent water to Oklahoma and plasting sheeting to help people cover the roofs of their homes. They also have a relief trailer at San Jose Baptist Church stocked and ready to go.
"Our trailer is kind of a multipurpose trailer," said Dusty Gregory. "it stays loaded (with) chainsaws and equipment to do that type of maintenance. We also have an air compressor and generator for any type of work."
Feeding America is responding by providing food, water and supplies to the residents of the devastated towns in Oklahoma. The group will continue to assess the need on the ground for more assistance as recovery efforts continue.
Global health and disaster relief nonprofit AmeriCares is also mobilizing a team to help in Oklahoma. Its emergency response team is headed to the region to coordinate deliveries of relief supplies and medical aid for survivors. The team arrived Tuesday morning.
Team Rubicon, a group of military veterans who respond to disasters, have issued the call to members and is heading to the region. By Tuesday morning, initial assessment teams will be on the ground, and they will then mobilize a full response to help the people affected by these storms.
Smith said making a donation or volunteering for a local non profit in the recovery efforts, will make a huge impact on those affected by the storms in Oklahoma. She said the local chapters are not only prepared and ready to assist in a local disasters, but also to chip in and help with other disasters across the country.
"Here in Duval County and surrounding counties we have really great emergency management and part of that is making sure that not only are we prepared from a county government standpoint and from a local community standpoint, it's also about making sure resources like non-profits like the Red Cross -- that we're prepared so we can open shelters and we can feed people in large-scale disasters," said Smith.
Samaritan's Purse deployed a group of staff members to travel from its North Carolina headquarters to head to Oklahoma with a Disaster Relief Unit. The unit is a tractor trailer stocked with emergency supplies and equipment.