Lawrence residents try to help

Goats lie in the ruins of a building Sunday in Greensburg after a tornado passed through the area late Friday and destroyed the town.

Jane Blocher’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing Sunday afternoon.

The executive director of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross has been inundated with people who want to volunteer their time and treasure to help the residents of Greensburg, whose town was leveled when an F-5 tornado plowed through town Friday night.

So far, she hasn’t been able to ask for much, other than donations to the Red Cross Disaster Fund.

“The information coming from the area where our relief effort is concentrated has been very slow,” Blocher said. “I’d almost guarantee we’ll have a lot more information (today).”

So far, the Red Cross has relied mostly on volunteers from Wichita, Salina and Pratt, while asking the more distant communities to offer only those with specialized training. Lawrence has contributed one individual with specialized information technology training, but Blocher thinks more volunteers from Lawrence will be needed soon.

“We expect and anticipate we’ll be sending additional volunteers down to the Greensburg area when we know what the volunteer needs will be,” she said.

The Salvation Army also has been active in distributing aid to those in need. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is working with the Salvation Army to establish donation centers, a social service center and an aid distribution center in Haviland, where many of the displaced residents are being sheltered. The Salvation Army is encouraging those interested in helping to make donations of cash through its Web site.

Tom Van Holt, who runs Starving Artists Moving in Lawrence, is also preparing an aid mission of his own.

“We’re ready to go, but there’s good news and bad news,” he said.

Van Holt is preparing to take donations of furniture, clothing and other “stuff” to the destroyed areas, but he’s not sure where it needs to go. He has a donation site ready to go at Checkers, 2300 La., but he’s still waiting to hear where he should take the donations.

Right now, Van Holt is planning to accept donations from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the week, and then 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the weekend. Once a truck is full, he’ll drive it down to the victims himself.

Right now he’s looking for donations and people to help at the drop-off site. He expects collecting donations starting today, but that’s contingent on receiving word from the disaster area.

The Salvation Army is discouraging individuals from donating things like furniture, but Zach White, a Kansas University student from Greensburg, said his town is in need of whatever people can give.

“We need physical help to clear away all the damage and the rubble,” he said. “The next thing we need is the monetary part of it. They’re going to need money to rebuild.”

Those who are interested in volunteering their time to help clear the rubble are being encouraged to contact the emergency management agencies in the affected areas. The Red Cross only uses its own trained volunteers.