Having a single donations drop-off site for victims affected by flooding and the May 22 tornado has eased collection of much-needed items.
A problem has been getting those items out to the people who most need them.
The site — Capital West Christian Event Center, 1315 Fairgrounds Road — has received thousands of donations. And is welcoming much more. However, a new challenge is getting the products to people who need them.
Only about 60 people directly affected by the disasters have been able to stop in at the center and accept products available. Some of the recipients have been repeats.
Truckloads of materials arrive at the site daily.
Adventist Community Services' Disaster Response volunteers sort the donations into several categories — food products, baby products, personal care products, cleaning supplies, bedding and kitchen supplies.
The center is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., every day, until further notice.
Unfortunately some of the victims of the disaster got the impression it was closed on the weekend, said Jody Dickhaut, the Seventh-day Adventist Church Community Services.
"How it got out there that we were only open five days a week, I have no idea," Dickhaut said.
The intent of setting up the center was to have a place where disaster victims would go, sign in and receive the products they needed.
Nobody will be turned away.
However, transportation is a huge snag for the disaster victims right now, Dickhaut said.
That was anticipated.
People may be able to reach the center using Uber or a city bus, but they still won't be able to return to their homes carrying very much, he said.
"We understand that we need to get more people here," said Ann Bax president of the United Way of Central Missouri. The center is now working out arrangements to resolve the issues.
Organizations have gotten the word out to media, but it isn't clear what percentage of disaster victims are aware of the center. Staff will begin posting fliers soon.
The Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City has offered to use its bus to move people back and forth. The United Way has reached out to the Rev. Cassandra Gould at Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, 415 Lafayette St., which is about a block away from the tornado's path, Bax said.
"We'll be able to resource their distribution center in their church," Bax said. "They're in closer."
One goal of the United Way is to put together a mobile distribution truck— which would work very much like the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri's mobile food pantry — early next week. The mobile food pantry distributes bulk foods to people throughout multiple counties.
It's possible there will be times when the mobile pantry and the mobile distribution truck would be in the same place, which could streamline delivery, Dickhaut said.
The distribution center is accepting donations for not only Cole County, it will also provide products for Eldon's tornado and flood victims.
Donations continue to flow into the center. On Monday, donations from Latter-day Saints Charities arrived at its doors. The organization provided some $40,000 in supplies for Jefferson City and Eldon residents hit by the tornado.
CVS Pharmacy delivered a large truckload of nonperishable products to the center Thursday afternoon.
Within two days of the tornado, management of JC Mattress Factory offered to pitch in. They delivered the first of two truckloads of mattresses to the center Wednesday. The center received frames, box springs and pillow-top mattresses in several sizes. Clearly, mattresses can't be taken home on a bus or through Uber, so the center is working out a delivery plan.
Penske Truck Rental has donated the use of several new delivery box trucks to the center. The large container trucks can be used to deliver large items, such as mattresses. However, the trucks are also available to deliver products to Eldon.
It's likely to begin early next week, Dickhaut said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints works with organizations in all manner of disasters to provide much-needed aid to neighbors and fellow residents, according to a news release from the church. The church strives to help stricken communities. People who have participated in Mutli-Agency Resource Centers (MARC) in Jefferson City and Eldon qualify for the aid.
MARCs are considered one-stop shops for all resources disaster victims may need. They are intended to help people affected by disasters receive resources and move into recovery mode by providing community relief as easy for victims as possible.
The public is encouraged to continue donating when possible. Items most in need are: non-perishable food products; cleaning supplies, such as small bleach containers, household cleaner, disinfectant dishwashing soap, dust masks, latex gloves, work gloves and scouring pads; personal care items such as hand towels, small bath towels, bar soap, shampoo and conditioner, neutral-scent deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and hair combs; and kitchen supplies such as hand-operated can openers, long-handled spoons, long-handled slotted spoons, spatulas, plastic knives, forks and spoons, disposable plates, disposable bowls, skillets and medium-size sauce pans.
All the donated material arriving at the Event Center, is being sorted into multiple buildings. It takes a lot of room.
Dickhaut said after the 2011 Joplin tornado, the state had to rent a 65,000-square-foot warehouse to manage the collection and distribution of donated materials. That rental was $30,000 per month, he said.
Capital West is donating its space.
"This is an incredibly generous donation," he said. "This is the kind of community partnership that makes a big difference."