Manatee relief groups funnel cash to Oklahoma tornado victims

jdeleon@bradenton.comMay 22, 2013 

MANATEE -- Local emergency management and relief organizations are asking for cash donations in lieu of goods from residents who wish to aid victims of the Oklahoma tornado.

Also, a Lakewood Ranch-based international disaster relief organization, ShelterBox, is sending two volunteers to assess the situation in Moore, Okla., before sending relief supplies.

An EF-5 tornado, the highest wind level on the Fujita scale at anything more than 200 mph, left a trail of devastation Monday in the small city of Moore, Okla.

The Oklahoma City suburb was still trying to account for all the missing

Tuesday.

Here in Manatee County, people can help.

"The best thing people can do is send cash donations to an established relief organization," Manatee County Emergency Management Chief Don Hermey said. "It is so hard to collect and send goods when there is such devastation."

For a list of relief organizations, go to nvoad.org/members.

One relief organization already deployed to the devastated region is the American Red Cross, which also asks for cash donations only.

"The best thing they can do is a financial donation," Tampa Bay Red Cross spokeswoman Janet McGuire said. "Sending items and collecting items, there is just nowhere to store them."

To make a donation to the Red Cross, text 90999 and $10 will be added to your cell phone bill, call 1-800-Red-Cross or visit redcross.org to make a donation.

Hermey cautions residents to ensure donations get to those who need it. He said people should follow the three C's: cash, confirm and connect.

"Cash, just send cash. Confirm, confirm any and all donation before sending and connect, getting connected to the relief organization," Hermey said.

Erin Holdgate, communications coordinator for ShelterBox in Lakewood Ranch, said two trained specialists should be in Oklahoma Wednesday. ShelterBox specializes in self-contained relief kits with a tent that can sleep up to 10 people, blankets, water purification kits, mosquito nets, tool sets and cooking equipment.

No supplies will be sent until the specialists assesses what's needed, Holdgate said.

ShelterBox has already been in contact with emergency officials in Oklahoma, confirmed communications director Tiffany Stephenson. "We'll likely be sending hygiene kits, blankets and tools," she said.

ShelterBox continues to provide aid to families affected by the conflict in Syria, flooding in Uganda and earthquake in Pakistan.

Manatee County emergency management officials are also watching to see if their services will be needed.

"All states have signed an agreement that they are willing to support each other," Hermey said.

The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is a national state-to-state mutual aid system signed into law in 1996 and ratified by all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Through EMAC, Manatee County deployed multiple crews to Mississippi in the aftermath of Katrina.

"As of now, we are monitoring to see what is needed, and if our expertise is needed then we will deploy, but they have not asked for help yet," Hermey said.

-- Herald editor Jim DeLa contributed to this report.

Jessica De Leon, Herald Reporter, can be reached at 941-749-7045. You can follow her @JDeLeon1012.

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