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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • How to help the tornado victims

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  • Fourteen people are confirmed dead, hundreds were injured and thousands of Arkansans are looking for ways to help.
    Severe weather swept through the state Sunday, leaving a path of destruction along the way. The communities of Vilonia and Mayflower were the hardest hit, while fatalities were confirmed in Faulkner, Pulaski and White counties.
    Through monetary donations, food and water, clothing and even blood, there are plenty of ways Arkansans can assist the victims of Sunday’s storms.
    The American Red Cross opened shelters in Arkansas Sunday, providing health and mental health services, as well as food to residents in the devastated areas. According to a press release, more than 200 people spent Sunday night in shelters opened or supported by the Red Cross.
    “Our thoughts and sympathy are with all those impacted by these horrific tornadoes,” Richard Reed, senior vice president, Disaster Cycle Services for the Red Cross, said. “Red Cross disaster teams are helping now and will continue to help for weeks to come.”
    The Red Cross provided several units of blood to two Arkansas hospitals and supplied plasma for those injured Monday morning. According to the Red Cross, the hospitals should have a sufficient blood supply to handle the situation, but residents interested in donating blood should call (800) RED CROSS to schedule an appointment in the weeks ahead.
    Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a statement of support Monday and pointed Arkansans wanting to help in the right direction.
    “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Mayflower, Vilonia and surrounding areas today,” McDaniel said. “I know the people of Arkansas will rally to support them in every way possible as they begin the long, painful recovery process.”
    McDaniel urged residents of the affected areas and those wanting to help in recovery efforts to be on the lookout for individuals who may try to financially benefit from the disaster.
    “Even as our first responders continue search and recovery efforts in the areas hardest hit by the storms, residents in outlying areas need to be prepared for scam artists trying to take advantage of them,” McDaniel said. “And as Arkansans, who have always had enormous hearts, look for ways to donate funds to the cause, they should make sure their money is going to reputable organizations.”
    Where to donate
    Residents can donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting “redcross” to 90999. Monetary donations can also be made online at www.redcross.org or by calling (800) RED-CROSS.
    Checks may also be mailed to the Salvation Army Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 738, North Little Rock, AR 72115-0738. Write Arkansas Tornado Relief on the check memo line. To donate $10 to the general disaster relief fund, text “STORM” to 80888. Donations may also be made by calling (800) 725-2760.
    Page 2 of 3 - All clothing that is collected at any of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Donation Centers or any of the BBBS green bins in the state of Arkansas will be turned into cash for the victims of Sunday’s storms. To find a drop-off location, visit www.bbbsca.org.
    Several locations have been set up in central Arkansas to accept donated items:
    • Oak Bowery Baptist Church, 889 Otto Road, Conway;
    • Antioch Baptist Church, 150 Amity Road, Conway;
    • Mayflower Middle School, 18 Eagle Circle, Mayflower;
    • Beryl Baptist Church, 873 Main St., Vilonia; and
    • Vilonia Town Hall.
    The Democratic Party of Arkansas announced Monday that it would match donations made to the victims of Sunday’s storms. Residents can donate at http://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/neighbors.
    The Republican Party of Arkansas said in a press release Monday that it would open its field offices to collect donations on behalf of the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. The press release said there is currently a need for cases of water, boxed snacks, hand sanitizer and other personal care items. Donations should be made by 8 p.m. Tuesday so items can be delivered on Wednesday. To find a field office, visit www.arkansasgop.org.
    The tornado that slammed into Vilonia grew to about half a mile wide Sunday and was among a rash of tornadoes and strong storms that rumbled across the Midwest and South.
    The tornado that hit Vilonia and nearby Mayflower would likely be rated as the nation’s strongest to date this year, as it has the potential to be at least an EF3 storm, which has winds greater than 136 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Hood said.
    “Based on some of the footage we’ve seen from Mayflower and where it crossed Interstate 40, things were wrecked in a very significant way,” he said, adding that emergency officials were “making sure utilities are cut off in the area. We don’t want anything to get, any fires to start or anything like that.”
    The Arkansas National Guard, along with numerous, local, state and federal agencies assisted with search and rescue and clean up following the storms.
    President Barack Obama expressed his condolences and offered federal assistance to the state during a call with Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe Sunday.
    According to a White House press release, Obama expressed his condolences for those families who lost a loved one and his concern for the individuals still missing. He expressed his gratitude for the heroic first responders working to save lives.
    Obama will send officials to Arkansas to “ensure the appropriate federal resources are being brought” to support state and local efforts, the release said. He asked Beebe to inform him and his team of any additional resources that could be provided to help the communities impacted by Sunday’s storms.
    Page 3 of 3 - Obama spoke at a joint news conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino while traveling in Asia. He said people hit by the disaster should know that “your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild, as long as it takes.”
    - GateHouse Media

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