Oklahoma tornadoes: For the moment, too many volunteers are in affected area

Coordinators request volunteers register, wait for call.
BY SANDI DAVIS Modified: May 23, 2013 at 11:00 am •  Published: May 23, 2013

When bad things happen in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Standard kicks in within minutes.

Everyone who can drops everything and goes to the affected part of the state to help. They buy supplies, food, anything that might help those fellow Oklahomans who were hurt.

It's the way we are.

It's also causing massive headaches for the first responders and emergency workers who need to be in the area first, looking for survivors, then casualties. They pick up the stray animals and take them to safety. They do the hard jobs, the ones that must be finished before recovery can start.

In Moore, there is a head-on collision between the volunteers who want to help and the people who need to do their jobs.

It's causing traffic jams — the supplies that will be used at some point are simply in the way right now.

Everyone's willingness to help will be needed in the weeks and months to come, just not right now.

Carla Bradshaw, senior director of marketing and communications for United Way of Oklahoma, had been at the Moore disaster site from 5:30 a.m. to just after noon Wednesday when she had time to talk.

“I just left the disaster area. There are lines of people, truckloads of supplies. People have written statements of support on their cars. They feel compelled to help, but right now they are causing major problems. The emergency personnel can't get in,” she said. “They are creating a second crisis.”

Bluntly, first responders need the room and to be able to get in and out of the area easily. Others need to stay away from the actual disaster zone to let these people finish their jobs.

Right now, there are enough volunteers.

If someone has supplies they'd like to drop off, don't go to the disaster zones.

Feed The Children is coordinating donations. They have plenty of storage space and the ability to dispense what is needed where it is needed.

Drop off sites include:

• Feed The Children McCormick Distribution Center, 29 N McCormick

• First Baptist Church, 1201 N Robinson

• KOCO-TV, 1300 E Britton Road

• Faith Church, I-40 and Portland

• TLC Garden Center, 105 W Memorial Road, Edmond

• Continental Resources, 20 N Broadway

• Bob Moore parking lot, 412 W Reno

• Thermal Windows, 6405 NW 23 Street, Bethany

• Cornerstone Church, 9900 SE 15 Street, Midwest City

“We are so grateful to everyone for what they're doing and we are going to need volunteers for months so come,” Bradshaw said. “United Way is coordinating the registration of volunteers and when we need you, we'll call you.”

To register, visit www.unitedwayokc.org and click on the “Help” link, then the “Volunteer Center.”

Oklahoma City's HeartLine has had a 61 percent increase in calls to its 211 line since Monday night.

“People want to help, it's our way,” said Lisa Harper, director of development of HeartLine. “We've had people calling with offers to help, but a lot of our calls are from people calling asking for help for others.”

Harper said HeartLine gets a lot of calls for organizations with spontaneous volunteer opportunities more than long term commitments.

HeartLine uses United Way for their volunteers, too, but to find out information on different ways to help with HeartLine or general information on how to help, visit their site at www.heartlineoklahoma.org and click on the “Opportunities to Help.”



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