This time of year it's usually turkey talk and the beginning of the holiday rush. An annual consumerist onslaught, we are often lost in the idea of getting instead of giving. This year however, Mother Nature presented Americans nationwide with a reminder of the things that really matter, and how easily the rest of it can disappear.
On October 29, Hurricane Sandy began battering the northeastern seaboard, leaving a trail of destruction and millions of dollars in damages in her wake. While the loss of life is tragic, it is now up to survivors to begin the difficult task of rebuilding.
The lives of more than 8 million people are now in the hands of relief workers and those both near and far willing to help. No strangers to either adverse weather (in "tornado alley") or to tragedy (remembering the Oklahoma City bombing) it's time once again for Tulsans to give back.
Susan Tilkin, communications and marketing director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, highlighted her organization's partnership with Feed America, a national network of food banks that offers disaster assistance.
"Most have enough in stock to be able to take care of the immediate problem," Tilkin said. "Feed America is supplying food and water."
Tilken suggested that the greatest good could be done with a financial donation, as the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is designed to cater to the surrounding areas.
"They could certainly go to feedingamerica.org," Tilkin said. There anyone eager to help those suffering from the hurricane can donate directly to the relief efforts online.
"We are usually not the first organization but shortly thereafter," Tilkin said, emphasizing that FEMA is generally first on the scene setting up shelters as well as food and water stations. Following closely, Feeding America, of which the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is a part, also cares for those who assist disaster victims.
"You end up having an influx of volunteers," Tilkin said.
Drawing a distinction between a food pantry, which deals with the ongoing needs of a community, and a food bank, which is designed to step up in emergency situations, Tilkin said, "It's not always for people that are in chronic need. This is the benefit of being in a national network."
Another thing vitally needed is blood, said Donita Quesnel, senior director of communications for the Eastern Oklahoma Region Red Cross.
"The need for blood is great. They have had to cancel several blood drives along the east coast," Quesnel said, highlighting one of the ways in which regional services occasionally fall short.
"The Red Cross operates with financial donations," Quesnel said. "The easiest way to give is to visit redcross.org." Financial contributions help in the transport of blood donated locally and fund the relief efforts directly by giving where it is needed most, disaster central, in the thick of it.
If you're into immediate satisfaction altruism, it's fortunately only a few thumb flicks away. You can automatically donate $10 via cell phone by texting "REDCROSS" to the number 9099.
In response to inquiries about the gathering and transport of food or various other medical supplies, Quesnel said, "It can become cost prohibitive," reiterating the economics of fuel costs in a time when the future of commerce in a large portion of the United States is in several feet of water, deep in financial limbo.
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Putting a personal face on a national campaign, Quesnal said of the manpower coming from Green Country, "Thus far 11 volunteers have been deployed and an emergency relief vehicle."
Volunteers are not encouraged to flock to the scene willy-nilly though. "Any request for aid comes from the national office," Quesnel said, specifying that those sent are "somewhat specialized." Eleven may seem like few to begin with, but a veteran of several national disasters, Quesnel said, "likely we will get requests for additional volunteers."
For those eager to donate time, Quesnel specified that it is too late to become a Red Cross volunteer for Hurricane Sandy, but that there will surely be future need. "We certainly invite them."
To register to become a volunteer with the Tulsa chapter of the Red Cross, or to give blood, you can visit them at the American Red Cross Donor Center, 10151 E. 11th St. The Tulsa chapter can be reached by phone at 918-831-1100. If you wish to give funds instead of blood, or simply prefer a computer to a human voice, visit tulsaredcross.org to find out how to get involved.
Not to forget those slogging through the mess on more than two legs, animals also need aid when it comes to national disasters. The Humane Society of the United States leads the way when it comes to helping animals suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Once again, in lieu of an actual helping hand and warm bed, a donation may do the trick. You can view more at their website, humanesociety.org.
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