How you can help tornadoes' victims

After looking at the photos of the destruction in Reading, Michele Belli wanted to do something.

Some Emporia businesses are closed on Sundays, but Belli's Black Heart's House of Art was open. So she posted a blurb on Facebook that the business was collecting relief supplies for the tornado victims, and the response spread, she said. Soon people were driving from Wichita, Kansas City and other places around the state to drop off items.

She sent three truckloads to the Lyon County Extension Office on Monday, and Belli said supplies in the store could fill five more trucks.

"It's just been really overwhelming, in a good way," Belli said.

With deadly tornadoes Saturday in Reading and Sunday in Joplin, Mo., Kansans like Belli are looking for ways to help.

Annie McCloud, flight administrator at the U.S. Air Force Flight Recruiting Office on North Rock Road, also decided Monday to raise money and supplies for the Air Force recruiters who lost their homes in Joplin.

The three offices in Joplin make up part of the 349th Air Force Recruiting Squadron, which includes Wichita and other cities in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas. McCloud is asking people to bring their donations to the office at 260 N. Rock Road.

"In the Air Force, we're a family," McCloud said. "When my family hurts, I hurt also."

For people wanting to volunteer in Reading, school buses are transporting people from the Lyon County Extension Office, said Jan Huston, a volunteer at the office. People should arrive by 9 a.m. if they want to help clean up debris outside homes. Once insurance adjusters evaluate the damage, volunteers will also start work inside the houses, she said.

"We just have no idea how fast this will go," Huston said. She said about 90 volunteers showed up Monday.

Local divisions of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are also providing ways for people to help the tornado victims financially, though they are not accepting in-kind donations.

Although people donate items with the best of intentions, James Williams, spokesman for the Red Cross Midway-Kansas Chapter, said in-kind donations — clothing, toiletries and other personal items — slow the recovery process because volunteers must sort through the supplies.

Money is the most efficient and helpful donation.

"The people on the ground know exactly what they need," he said.

Williams said the Red Cross has provided meals and shelter for people in Reading. Thus far, trained volunteers from Kansas haven't been sent to help in Joplin, he said, though other chapters of the Red Cross have volunteers there.

Mobile units from the Salvation Army are also in Reading and Joplin. The headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., has not dispatched the Wichita unit, said Major Douglas Rowland, city commander for the Salvation Army in Wichita. However, volunteers are on standby, he said.

"It's very possible that we may need to go and bring some relief to those who have been there for a while," Rowland said.

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