Tribune-Courier News Editor
Marshall County’s churches and disaster relief groups are reaching out to help victims of the May 20 Moore, Okla., tornado.
Carolyn Gray, of the Blood River Baptist Association Disaster Relief Team, said her group has been alerted to a stand-by posture. The Blood River Baptist team has the capacity to deliver a shower and laundry trailer and a portable kitchen to feed the displaced and other rescue workers.
“The Kentucky Baptist Convention has close to 1,000 volunteers,” Gray said. “When our team went to New York for Hurricane Sandy, we had close to 30 volunteers just with our Marshall County group. We stayed up there from October to December.”
Gray said the Marshall County team has about 150 volunteers. About eight to 10 members are volunteers ready to deploy on short notice. Most are retirees. The team also plans to return to New York in July to feed workers rebuilding after the hurricane.
“Right now, we’re on hold because there has been a big response in Oklahoma and from surrounding states,” Gray said. “We could get called out this afternoon or tomorrow, and be on our way in three days,” Gray said Thursday.
Volunteers with the group must undergo regular training to assist others without becoming a hinderance. Volunteers must also pass a criminal background check, Gray said. Other services provided by the Kentucky Baptist Convention disaster teams include debris removal, chainsaw teams, medical teams -in need of medically-trained volunteers- and ministry groups.
“One big service we provide is child care. We’ve done that a time or two, and it’s been a help for parents dealing with the (Federal Emergency Management Agency) or the Red Cross in the whole recovery process,” Gray said.
The Lakeland Area Red Cross is requesting monetary donations earmarked for disaster relief. Executive director Darlene Lynn said monetary contributions are preferred as the Red Cross does not have transportation for supplies and the affected area lacks storage space.
“You can make out a check for Oklahoma, but we prefer it to be for disaster relief as we can use it anywhere it is needed,” Lynn said.
As for donations of supplies or clothing, Lynn asked they be given to groups like Needline or New to You. She added the supplies would be used in Marshall County for victims of disasters.
“Right now, Red Cross is providing food and shelter in Oklahoma,” Lynn said. “We’re also providing mental health counseling. From this region, Red Cross has sent five emergency response vehicles and about 30 people to help.”
Pastor Tim Polley of First Christian Church in Benton said his church’s youth group spent Friday collecting donations for the Red Cross disaster relief.
“We don’t need to send supplies or to see untrained people deploying themselves to help,” Polley said. “We need money to support the troops on the ground. With these funds, churches and the Red Cross can buy what is needed in bulk, and will not be taxed.”
Polley said the campaign collected more than $1,500 for Oklahoma City relief.
“We want people to stay in contact with churches and disaster relief organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army,” Polley said. “These groups are going to be there a long time. Everyone wants to do what they can now, but support will wear down. We want to help them for the long haul. These groups still have people in Joplin, Mo., and that tornado was last year. From what Oklahoma looks like now, it will be several years before they get back to any sense of normalcy.”
To contribute to the Blood River Baptist Association Disaster Relief Team, or to learn more about volunteering, call 270-703-1212. To contribute or to become a Red Cross volunteer, call 270-527-0740.