Pioneer Valley Red Cross aids Oklahoma tornado victims
American Red Cross Pioneer Valley volunteer Donna McKinney offers Doug Finck some snacks after he arrives at a Red Cross shelter in Colrain after Hurricane Irene. COURTESY OF RED CROSS. Purchase photo reprints »
SPRINGFIELD — The Pioneer Valley chapter of the Red Cross has deployed one local volunteer to help tornado victims in Moore, Okla., and will likely send more in the coming days and weeks.
Dawn Leaks, Pioneer Valley Red Cross spokeswoman, said the number of volunteers the chapter will send depends on requests from the Red Cross chapter for the Oklahoma area hit by the devastating tornado.
“We’re still waiting to hear what their needs are,” Leaks said Wednesday.
Donna McKinney of Warren, a registered nurse and volunteer for the Pioneer Valley Red Cross, left for Oklahoma today, Leaks said.
The massive EF5 tornado left a swath of destruction 1.3 miles wide in Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City, Monday afternoon. In its path were two elementary schools, and nine of the 24 killed were children.
As recovery efforts continue there, more volunteers will be needed to work in shelters or as case workers, but they are more likely to come from Red Cross chapters closer to the affected area, Leaks said.
McKinney headed to Oklahoma because there was a need for someone with medical expertise.
“She’ll do health services at the shelters operating there for victims of the tornadoes, trying to assess their disaster-related health needs,” Leaks said. Besides helping them get treatment for injuries from Monday’s tornado, she will also help any displaced residents get prescriptions or other medications, Leaks said.
McKinney has also helped provide disaster relief after the Boston Marathon bombings and after the 2011 tornado that killed 161 people in Joplin, Mo.
Leaks said she has seen an outpouring of support from the Valley for the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund, which will fund the nonprofit’s relief effort in Oklahoma.
She said that many locals feel especially sympathetic after watching the June 1, 2011, tornado rip through Springfield, but added that Pioneer Valley residents have always been generous donors “whenever there is any kind of disaster.”
“This is going to be a pretty large relief effort,” Leaks said. “The community here wants to help and the best way to do that is to make monetary donations. That’s the best way to get them what they need.”
The devastation caused by the tornado Monday — estimated at $2 billion — has hit home for her, Leaks said.
“I was on the road when the tornado hit, I saw the sky and saw the funnel,” she said. “It gives you a different perspective when you see it on the news and see the devastation and all the people who lost their homes. You really understand the damage, both physical and emotional.”
Residents wishing to donate the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund can do so online at www.redcross.org/charitable-donations, by calling (800) 733-2767, or (to donate $10) by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at email@example.com.