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Volunteer coordinator: Check with relief efforts before showing up in Reading, Kansas

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, May 22, 2011, at 3:44 p.m.

As residents of Reading begin the task of recovering from Saturday's tornado, offers of help are pouring in.

Efforts to coordinate the volunteer effort were being handled through Community Organizations Active in Disaster.

"So many people are wanting to help," said Denise Dorcey of Emporia, whose husband, Mike Dorcey, is coordinating the effort in Reading.

But, she said, past experience with other tornado responses has shown that well-meaning volunteers could hamper recovery efforts by just showing up without any prior coordination.

"People milling around without direction become a problem with relief efforts," she said.

Volunteers not affiliated with official relief organizations must register first at the Lyon County Extension Office, 2632 W. U.S. 50 in Emporia.

The volunteer reception center is scheduled to open at 8 a.m. Monday, officials said. Volunteers will receive credentials to enter the town later in the morning.

Within hours of the tornado, Jeremy Luby — who grew up in Reading and lives in the Kansas City area — set up a Facebook page for information about the tornado and its aftermath.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, Luby's "Reading Tornado May 21, 2011" page had more than 1,100 members. Many were seeking information about friends and relatives in the affected area that they had not heard from. Within minutes of some of those postings, answers came from people who had information for them. Vo Luby said his grandmother still lives in the town. She was OK, although her house suffered some roof damage.

"A lot of people are thankful there weren't more injuries or deaths," he said. "But it's sad for those of us who grew up there that our small little town has been wiped off the map."

Among those posting to the Facebook page was Jenn Hoover of Topeka, who said she and her husband were offering their home as a collection site for donations.

The couple has access to several trucks and will deliver donations as soon as they are allowed in to town, Hoover said. She said they would accept all new and gently used items, cash, toys, clothes, toiletries and cleaning supplies.

"If it's in need, we will gladly collect and deliver it," she said.

Hoover can be reached by phone at 785-817-2245.

Besides the Facebook page, Readingkansas.com was set up to provide information about the disaster. It includes a list of people who are known to be safe.

The American Red Cross has also set up phone lines for people wishing to donate to help the town's residents. The most important need right now is money, according to a Red Cross spokesperson.

Donors can call toll free to 1-866-990-9910.

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