How to send help to the tornado victims in Oklahoma

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Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - Justin Jones

PADUCAH, Ky. - The American Red Cross is already on the ground in Oklahoma. Almost 30 emergency response vehicles have been deployed, including two from western Kentucky. They will be handing out food and relief supplies to the tornado victims. They're also setting up mobile kitchens and emergency aid stations for people, all staffed by volunteers.

Right now, they're in desperate need for people with medical training. Training is the key word. All of The Red Cross' volunteers sent to Oklahoma have gone through courses that prepare them to respond to emergencies. While not every volunteer is a prime candidate for deployment, Red Cross leaders say there are ways for anyone to help.

The phones at The Paducah Area Chapter of The American Red Cross were ringing all day Tuesday with people on the other end who want to help. Executive Director Jessica Toren says, "It never stops. It's constant. There's always a flood, fire, or a tornado. There's always a need for Red Cross volunteers." Red Cross Volunteers have responded to more than 200 disasters so far this year. Toren says volunteers are vital, but there is a process.

Anyone looking to become an official Red Cross volunteer should visit their website to apply. If approved, there is an orientation and then a training. "We have folks who specialize in sheltering, safe food handling, registration, and that kind of a thing. They learn to do all of that," said Toren.

Most of the trained volunteers, including the ones in two ERV's headed to Oklahoma, are already on the ground. However, Toren said there are different ways to send help even if you can't be sent yourself. The biggest thing people need right now are monetary donations. "Some people need diabetes medication. Some people need pet food. Some people need emergency cell phones. Some people need diapers. Financial assistance lets us get all those things for the folks," she said.

You can donate by text message, online, or by stopping by your local Red Cross chapter office.

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