Local Red Cross volunteers depart for Oklahoma to aid emergency response

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1:05pm

In response to the tornadoes that devastated the parts of Oklahoma on Monday, the Tennessee Volunteer Region of the American Red Cross is sending six volunteers to Shawnee, Okla., to assist with tornado relief efforts on Tuesday.

The volunteers are traveling in Emergency Response Vehicles, which are used as mobile feeding trucks.

“We are going to deliver meals to people and sometimes we will be delivering cleanup kits, which contain rakes, mops and buckets for people to use,” said Susan Scott of Watertown, who has been part of multiple Red Cross volunteer efforts in the past.

Bob Stafford, of Mt. Juliet, has been involved in volunteer deployments to New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina and said the team is going to be there from 14 to 21 days.

“This morning, we have mostly been briefed on the conditions that we are going into and what to expect,” Stafford said. “Mostly what we will be doing is load the truck up and take food to additional shelters, or driving up and down the street and feeding people, individually giving out water, snacks and hot meals. We expect the conditions to be very difficult.”

Although the team is initially arriving in Shawnee, they will be mobile throughout the state and provide help where needed during the deployment.

“A lot of times we stay in shelters like everyone else on cots in a gymnasium, but that depends on the situation when we get there,” Stafford said.

Scott said it will be hard work with little sleep, but added that it is also rewarding.

“Sometimes a hot meal and someone there to listen to what you have to say gives them a little boost,” Scott said. “It is necessary to go, but it is just so rewarding to help people who are in desperate need when they don’t know where to turn. When people see the Red Cross they see the cavalry coming and it is nice to be a part of that.”

“When I was a kid living in Eastern Kentucky we had a lot of floods and the Red Cross always showed up,” Stafford said. “When I retired, I said I was going to give back so that’s why I keep doing this.”

A team of emergency service workers out of the Memphis Fire Department has also deployed to Oklahoma to help in the recovery.

Memphis Fire Department spokesman Wayne Cooke said that Tennessee Task Force 1 left early Tuesday.

Cooke said the 80-member team will mostly help with search and rescue efforts after several powerful and deadly tornadoes struck cities in Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday. Emergency crews are will be digging through the rubble of destroyed structures to find trapped people over the next several days.

The team is bringing search dogs and semi-trailers loaded with equipment to help dig through collapsed structures and perform other duties. Cooke says the team consists of emergency personnel from around Tennessee, and it was one of several teams that deployed to areas affected by Hurricane Sandy last October.


• Kroger is also teaming with the American Red Cross by accepting customer donations at all Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky Kroger locations. The money collected will be forwarded directly to the Red Cross for relief efforts. Kroger will match donations made up to $50,000.

To make a donation, Kroger customers can add any amount to the total purchase at the checkout. The amount of each donation will appear on the customer’s receipt as a contribution to the American Red Cross. Kroger officials said 100 percent of the funds collected will be sent to the American Red Cross.


(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)