Local organizations aim to support tornado victims

Lawrence residents can empathize with the citizens of Moore, Okla.: Both live in Tornado Alley and are thus particularly susceptible to the whims of Mother Nature. That’s why many local people spent time Tuesday figuring out how they could help those in the Oklahoma City suburb, which was leveled by an EF5 tornado Monday that left two dozen people dead and many more injured and homeless.

“We are definitely taking up an offering this Sunday at service for the people of Oklahoma City who have been devastated by the tornado,” said the Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor at Lawrence’s Plymouth Congregational Church. “I think the feeling is the tornado could just as well have happened in Lawrence, Kansas, as opposed to Moore, Oklahoma. We feel we need to step up and be generous and respond to their terrible pain.”

Jane Blocher, executive director of American Red Cross of Douglas County, said Tuesday that she had heard from local residents either wanting to donate their time or money to the people of Moore.

Expressing a similar sentiment as other relief agencies Tuesday, she said the best way to help the victims is to contribute monetarily. The Red Cross only uses specially trained volunteers, and bringing goods to a local chapter is cost prohibitive because the organization would have to pay to transport it. It’s also best for the funds to be spent closer to the disaster site to help get their local economies back up and running, she said.

How to help victims of Moore, Okla., tornado

• To donate through the Red Cross, visit redcross.org, call 800-RED-CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. Mail contributions to American Red Cross of Douglas County, 2518 Ridge Court, Lawrence, KS, 66046, or call the local office at (785) 843-3550 to donate using a credit card.

• To give through The Salvation Army, go to www.SalvationArmyUSA.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Text STORM to 80888 to make a $10 donation. Checks written to Oklahoma Tornado Relief can be mailed to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK 73157.

• To contribute through United Way, visit www.UnitedWayOKC.org, or write a check to May Tornado Relief and mail it to United Way of Central Oklahoma, P.O. Box 837, Oklahoma City, OK 73101.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management also made such a request Tuesday, urging donors to give money rather than donating goods or showing up in the central-Oklahoma community in person. A volunteer’s presence can put a strain on already limited food and shelter resources, the department said. Any requests for civilian emergency responders come through official channels like the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and National Guard Bureau. The Lawrence National Guard Armory reported Tuesday it hadn’t yet received any such request. KDEM also recommended donating through reputable organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way.

After the Big 12 Conference baseball tournament in Oklahoma City was delayed because of the tornado, the Kansas University baseball team decided to help out. Players raised $1,200 to put toward supplies and bottled water for people devastated by the storm, and they planned to do community-service work as well.

Lt. Matt McCluer, of The Salvation Army’s Lawrence chapter, said his organization plans to send out mail appeals for aid for the tornado victims and be on call for other volunteering and fundraising opportunities.

The Red Cross’ Blocher echoed the opinion that Lawrencians are particularly sympathetic toward the tornado victims.

“Douglas County has always made a significant impact financially by raising funds for any community impacted by a disaster,” she said. “Anytime there’s something that hits the Midwest — that hits close to home, and Douglas County never fails to step up.”