Organizations around Missouri provide relief to Joplin tornado victims

Monday, May 23, 2011 | 5:54 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA —  Local groups, including city firefighters, Red Cross volunteers, nurses, doctors and pharmacists, have stepped up to help victims of Sunday's devastating tornado in Joplin.

A team of 85 Missouri Task Force One members, including three Columbia firefighters, was dispatched to Joplin on Sunday night to undertake search-and-rescue efforts. On Monday, they concentrated on looking for survivors in the Home Depot, which was heavily damaged in the storm.

MU Health Care sent two ambulances to Joplin on Sunday night, said Matt Splett, spokesman for MU Health Care.

He said MU Health Care is ready to dispatch two trailers, specifically designed for disaster response, stocked with enough medical supplies to treat 200 people.

“We’re on standby, ready to help,” Splett said late Monday morning. “If the call is made we will help with the resources we have.”

The Mid-Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross is rounding up volunteers and emergency vehicles to send to Joplin.

“We’ve called our volunteers that match the needs of the relief, and if they have the opportunity to go down there, they can,” said Mike Flanagan, communications director for the American Red Cross Capital Area chapter.

“We currently have 25 volunteers that would be available today who have all been trained,” Flanagan said. “We’re in the process of possibly getting more."

In order for volunteers to help, Flanagan said they must be trained by the Red Cross in their area of expertise. Specialized training includes client casework, damage assessment and shelter management.

The Humane Society of Missouri sent a disaster response team Monday afternoon to help rescue and shelter animals harmed or displaced by the tornado.  

Jeane Jae, vice president of communications, said the team included 15 people, as well as a veterinarian.

“We will be combing the area looking for lost and trapped pets,” Jae said. “We are prepared to stay as long as there is need.”

Jae said the Humane Society is working with the Joplin Animal Control and the American Red Cross. Shelters in the area have the capacity to care for several hundred animals, she said.

Sarah Riley, president of the Academy of Student Pharmacists at UMKC School of Pharmacy, is assembling a group of student pharmacists to travel from Columbia to Joplin. They have been asked to help administer vaccines and medication to people in need.

Riley began recruiting classmates after seeing a tweet from the Missouri Pharmacy Association requesting help from pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. So far, the group numbers 10 to 15 students plus faculty members from both the Columbia and Kansas City campuses.  

“There is a huge need for insulin, tetanus vaccines and water," Riley said. "Student pharmacists that have taken the immunization course will be able to administer the vaccines.”

The city of Columbia is also ready to offer assistance, said Tony St. Romaine, assistant city manager.

“Right now we are basically figuring out what resources are available and what can be sent to Joplin,” St. Romaine said.

The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri is on standby to send food, water and batteries to Joplin.

The food bank is collecting donations and will be sending “grab and go” products, such as fruit juice and granola bars, for first responders and volunteers in the next 24 to 48 hours, said Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of the food bank.

Corporate donors are helping the effort, she said. Kraft Foods in Columbia is contributing several pallets of packages of hot dogs, and General Mills in Hannibal is donating granola bars and soup.

These products will be sent when power is restored to the area because most of them cannot be cooked without electricity or temporary housing.

“The worst thing in the world people can do is send products now,” Kirkpatrick said.

Major K. Kendall Mathews, Salvation Army regional coordinator for Mid-Missouri, said on Monday afternoon the Salvation Army is collecting cash and personal items, such as deodorant and toothpaste.

The Salvation Army will also be sending mobile feeding units to the area and a team of at least four to help with relief.

Pastoral care will be sent as well.

“With the loss of life, people are going to be in need of spiritual counseling,” Mathews said.

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