Local charities are collecting donations from Marietta residents to aid in relief efforts after a tornado ripped a 17-mile path through the suburbs of Oklahoma City on Monday.
But organizers are discouraging local people from heading to the Sooner State as lone-ranger volunteers.
“The United Methodist Church has a system in place for responding. We emphasize that no volunteers are needed at this time,” stated an announcement by the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Deb Ingham, from Due West United Methodist Church in west Cobb, said she is waiting for more information on specific needs from the nonprofit United Methodist Committee on Relief that is on the ground in Oklahoma.
Ingham said as soon as UMCOR gives the word, her church, near Lost Mountain park off Acworth Due West Road, already has enough funds raised to begin filling a truck with supplies.
“As soon as they know what they want, this will be a huge hub,” Ingham said.
In the past, the congregation and surrounding community has provided disaster victims with personal hygiene kits, new pillows and bedding, as well as buckets with cleaning supplies.
Ingham said it is best to give money, so that specific resources can be directed as a collaborative response with larger groups.
“When people self-deploy it causes mayhem,” Ingham said about people eager to travel to a disaster site to offer volunteer help.
Ingham said Due West United Methodist Church filled a truck a day and sent down several teams after Hurricane Katrina.
“When the immediacy is over, it doesn’t mean the problem is gone,” said Ingham.
She said members of the church housed displaced families from the Gulf coast in Marietta for a year after Hurricane Katrina.
The First Presbyterian Church of Marietta, at 189 Church St. near the Square, is also joining a united disaster relief effort.
The national organization, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, gave the local church an order of supplies to fill, said Mark Barbour, a director at First Presbyterian.
The First Presbyterian congregation is part of a local coalition of churches that in 2005 formed to help flood victims in Cobb County who lost their homes and did not have insurance.
Red Cross efforts
Ruben Brown of the Atlanta Red Cross, which is the closest chapter to Marietta, said the needs of people in Oklahoma will change, so donating money is the most efficient way to help.
“We are strongly encouraging people to make monetary donations so we can quickly convert it to items for people in desperate need,” said Brown, who specifically pointed to prescription medication and infant formula that is harder to collect.
Brown said the Red Cross is only in day three of a relief effort that is likely to be very costly with volunteers on the ground for weeks, if not longer.
“Entire city blocks have been raked clean,” Brown said.
The Red Cross will canvas Oklahoma neighborhoods every day, with the help of a local resource, Shirley Foote from the Atlanta office, who will help feed and lodge volunteers, according to Brown.
Already, the Red Cross has provided emergency aid stations, partnered with other organizations to provide mobile kitchens and housed 300 refugees Tuesday night in Oklahoma and Texas community shelters, according to Brown.
Brown added that 30 Red Cross trucks from around the nation are loaded with goods and heading to the demolished area.
“Things that you and I might take for granted, but can become a precious commodity,” said Brown, who added that some of the cargo includes coolers, tarps, flashlights, dust masks, gloves, trash bags and shovels.
Brown said the devastation is a reminder of the importance to be prepared and revisit emergency plans.
“It can happen here … and tornado season is not over,” Brown said.