The last day tornado and flood victims can walk into the distribution center and pick up "consumable" goods will be Wednesday.
The center, at Capital West Christian Event Center, 1315 Fairgrounds Road, will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. People affected by the disasters may pick up food products, baby products, personal care items, cleaning supplies and kitchen supplies there. After Wednesday, some products may be picked up by appointment only.
The collection/distribution center came about in the days following the May 22 tornado that first struck in Miller County and worked its way through Cole County and East Jefferson City. The next day, people began streaming into the United Way of Central Missouri offices with donations for victims. The offices filled up. A larger place had to be located.
As the scope of the disasters became clearer, emergency personnel set up the donation drop-off and distribution site at the event center.
The site has received thousands of donations. Some continue to arrive. More are expected to arrive from the St. Louis area Thursday, according to Ken Harland, the church's administrative minister. But, items have been slow going out.
Disaster response organizers, including Cole County Emergency Management Director Bill Farr, are expected this week to identify several distribution sites nearer to the path of the tornado and closer to the storm's victims.
The United Way of Central Missouri has been reaching out to faith-based organizations and nonprofits that have been providing donations for disaster victims to see if they would be good fits for local donation/distribution sites, United Way Director Ann Bax said.
Soon, the remaining donated consumable goods will be transferred to the new distribution sites.
The United Way wants to assure the sites are near the people who will use them, she said.
"We want to make sure the distribution centers can continue to distribute items," Bax said. "Our goal is to have the donation center cleaned out by the end of next week."
Then, the warehouse for donated items will move into a sort of "recovery" phase, according to Nancy Tarasenko, a volunteer with the Seventh Day Adventist Community Services Disaster Response team.
Under the recovery phase, Catholic Charities of Central and Northeast Missouri will be responsible for helping connect people with "durable goods," Tarasenko said.
Catholic Charities will identify which durable goods — such as beds, furniture, small appliances, televisions and wall art — disaster victims lost during the events. The victims will then be able to make arrangements to pick up the items that can be replaced (or have them shipped to their new or repaired homes.)
Folks with Seventh Day Adventist Church Community Services have responded to a number of major disasters, according to Jody Dickhaut, a volunteer with the organization. Immediately following the tornado, Dickhaut was dispatched to help locate a likely donation collection/distribution site. Following the Joplin tornado, he said, Missouri had to rent a $65,000-square-foot warehouse to manage the materials distributed in that area.
Capital West Christian Church stands on a 10-acre Fairgrounds Road site — which was previously Great Central Lumber.
"Several Years ago, our church was growing," Harland said. "We came over and talked to Great Central Lumber about using some space on Sunday mornings. They asked if we wanted to buy the entire site."
One building is a youth center. Another is used for an indoor archery range, where Christian principals are taught through archery, Harland said. When Dickhaut saw the buildings, he said it was exactly what was needed.
"Our people had been asking, 'What can we do?' When (Dickhaut) walked in, we knew this is what we could do," Harland said.
The church allowed the distribution center to be positioned there for free. To help offset the costs to the church, this week, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles donated $1,000 to the church. It also donated $1,000 to the Missouri Baptist Association.
"We thought those were gracious offers," Harland said.
However, the disasters struck during summer, when there was not a lot of need for the buildings. As the beginning of school approaches, and students begin to return to their education schedules, programs held in the buildings are preparing to restart, Harland said.
"We could not have done this if it weren't summertime," he said.
The distribution center needs to be out of a couple of the buildings by mid-August, he said.