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Red Cross volunteers to get boots on ground today

Red Cross volunteers to get boots on ground today

May 25th, 2019 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Sally Ince/ News Tribune Mayor Carrie Tergin visits with Red Cross volunteers Friday May 24, 2019 inside the Red Cross shelter at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Tergin visited to several locations around the city to speaks with volunteers helping residents affected by the tornado.

The American Red Cross on Friday set up a regional office in the base of a downtown Jefferson City church.

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From there, more than 20 professionals are administering the organization's responses to three ongoing disasters.

Response to and recovery from the twister that ripped through the Capital City late Wednesday night is a priority right now. But, the organization is also monitoring severe flooding in the St. Joseph and St. Louis areas, and all along the Arkansas River, according to Cindy Erickson, chief executive officer of the Red Cross Missouri and Arkansas region.

The organization sets up response command headquarters in places that are centrally located with where they are most needed, Erickson said.

"We have set up operations that allow this to be the headquarters for half of Missouri and half of Arkansas," she said. "The district team is focused on tornado response. But, we're concerned about flooding."

The central location allows the organization to quickly mobilize resources, she said.

Red Cross assessment teams were expected to go out on foot beginning this morning to determine how significant the damage was to each property in the path of Wednesday's tornado.

They'll place a digital (Google) pin in each property and determine the extent of its damage. That information will be used with some from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local first responders to identify victims and get them the resources they need.

It's a large "group effort" that helps with funding for disaster responses, said Karla Templeton, a member of Red Cross disaster services.

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While the Red Cross members are on the ground, they can help people with all of their needs — whether it's getting them water or providing emotional or spiritual support.

Two days after tornadoes ripped through Central Missouri, the Red Cross is providing shelters in the affected communities.

It is operating two shelters in Eldon, one in the Upper Elementary School, 407 E. 15th St., and the other in the community center, 309 E. Second St.

It is also operating a shelter in Jefferson City at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, 1201 Fairgrounds Road. People who need meals, water or a place to sleep are encouraged to visit any of the sites.

The Salvation Army Center of Hope, 927 Jefferson St., in Jefferson City, is also available for meals, water and shelter.

Attendance at the shelters was expected to increase Friday night over Thursday night because a number of hotels that are Red Cross partners had provided vouchers for free overnight stays Thursday, according to Abigail Anderson, director of the American Red Cross of Central and Northern Missouri. Some of those vouchers have been used up.

"In addition to the tornado aftermath, we're also dealing with flooding," Anderson said Friday. "We had a family that was affected by the flooding show up today. We're kind of dealing with the second wave."

The staff at the temporary Red Cross HQ is made up of veterans of multiple disasters, she said. One woman is on her 19th deployment.

Responses seem to come in an ebb and flow, Anderson said. Immediately, there is disaster relief. Then come the assessments, then recovery.

"It's time consuming. It's frustrating for a lot of folks," Anderson said. "But, people are getting help. We have had such an outpouring of that we have a surplus of supplies."

The Red Cross is looking to rent a warehouse to hold the items that people have donated until it can distribute them, she said.

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For now, it asks that people stop buying products for victims until they hear from the organization.

Meanwhile, people are signing up by the hundreds to help with the recovery effort.

People who wish to volunteer and assist with the community-wide disaster recovery should visit unitedwaycemo.org/volunteer. The United Way is gathering names of potential volunteers and will notify them when appropriate disaster responses are identified.

The organization is also hosting a volunteer sign-up at Capital Mall, 3600 Country Club Drive. At that site, members of AmeriCorps signed up more than 50 volunteers Friday. They intend to stay there for several more days, according to Heather McSherry, a St. Louis-based AmeriCorps member.

Unfortunately, volunteers have been discouraged from entering the area affected by the tornado for safety purposes. Ameren Missouri continues to try to repair damaged power lines. The city hoped to give the "all clear" and allow volunteer crews into the communities affected by the storm today.

"We're just trying to connect volunteers with specific opportunities in there," McSherry said. "We don't have specific opportunities yet."

When they get approval, volunteers will be needed to help with debris and vegetation removal, pet care, cleanup, water delivery and other services.

Volunteers can also go to redcross.org to find opportunities to help with the recovery.

"There has been an outpouring of (Jefferson City) community support," Anderson said. "In other chapters, we just don't see this type of effort. The number of volunteer referrals I sent to our volunteer coordinators just today has been amazing."