Residents and community organizations throughout Santa Clarita are working together to help tornado victims in Moore, Oklahoma.
Rescue teams combed through shattered buildings and broken homes Tuesday after one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history blasted through Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing at least 24 people, including nine children.
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The confirmed death toll from the Oklahoma medical examiner was lowered from an earlier figure of 51, illustrating the confusion on the ground in Moore, a 55,000-person suburb of Oklahoma City that was in the direct line of the twister. Authorities cautioned that the death toll could change again.
Scene of immense devastation
Entire blocks of Moore appeared as though they had been razed, and cars were mangled beyond recognition. Reports so far confirm 19 deaths in the town.
Seven children drowned in a pool of water at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was pulverized by the tornado.
The storm also devastated a local hospital.
How to help
At this time, officials are asking people not to travel to Oklahoma to help in the relief effort. Instead, those wishing to help are urged to make monetary contributions to a verified and effective disaster relief organization.
Help the Children, a Santa Clarita-based nonprofit Christian humanitarian relief organization, is raising funds to send a truck to Oklahoma with food, water, clothes, and toys, according to President Roger Presgrove. Organizers estimate that they will need $3000 to fund the mission. Donations to Help the Children can be made through its website.
The Los Angeles County chapter of The American Red Cross is in the process of contacting volunteers for deployment in the coming days or weeks, according to Red Cross spokesperson Terri Corigliano. In the meantime, SCV residents wishing to make donations to the Oklahoma victims through their local Red Cross chapter can send a check or money order earmarked “for tornados and spring storms.” Those funds will go directly to relief efforts in Oklahoma and other recent tornado and storm events. Donations with no earmark go into the organization’s general disaster relief fund.
The American Red Cross of Santa Clarita has a Facebook page at which you can also get the latest information on relief efforts emanating from our region.
Here are more ways to help:
American Red Cross
The Red Cross has set up shelters in various communities. You can donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund here, and the organization also suggests giving blood at your local hospital or blood bank.
If you want to send a $10 donation to the Disaster Relief fund via text message, you can do so by texting the word REDCROSS to 90999. As in the case with other donations via mobile, the donation will show up on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your balance if you have a prepaid phone. You need to be 18 or older, or have parental permission, to donate this way. (If you change your mind, text the word STOP to 90999.)
Phone: 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767); for Spanish speakers, 1-800-257-7575; for TDD, 1-800-220-4095.
Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief
This organization says donations will “go straight to help those in need providing tree removal services, laundry services and meals to victims of disasters.”
It is requesting monetary donations (It says clothing is NOT needed). For more information, and to donate, visit Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief’s website.
You can send checks to: BGCO, Attn: Disaster Relief, 3800 N. May Ave., Oklahoma City, OK., 73112.
The Salvation Army is organizing disaster response units to serve hard-hit areas in central Oklahoma, including Moore, where it is sending mobile kitchens that can serve meals to 2,500 people a day, and to South Oklahoma City.
In Little Axe, Okla., the organization said, the army’s Central Oklahoma Area Command Disaster Service Unit was busy feeding breakfast, lunch and dinner to people, “even as one of our Salvation Army family member’s home was destroyed.”
Supporters can donate online via the organization’s website, SalvationArmyUSA.org. You can also text the word STORM to 80888 to make a $10 donation via cellphone.
If you want to send a check, the Salvation Army asks that you put the words “Oklahoma Tornado Relief” on the check, and mail it to: The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 12600, Oklahoma City, OK., 73157.
Phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769).
United Way of Central Oklahoma
A disaster relief fund is being activated as of May 21 so that individuals can specifically donated to tornado relief-and-recovery efforts, the organization says on its site.
“Financial contributions are the best way to help unless otherwise requested.” Donations can be made online at
United Way of Central Oklahoma’s Disaster Relief Fund is open. Donations may be made online here. Checks, with a notation of “May Tornado Relief” can also be sent to the United Way of Central Oklahoma, P.O. Box 837, Oklahoma City, OK , 73101.
Through its network of more than 200 food banks, Feeding America, whose mission is to “feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks,” says it will deliver truckloads of food, water and supplies to communities in need, in Oklahoma, and will also “set up additional emergency food and supply distribution sites as they are needed.” You can donate onlinehere.
The international relief group, based in Los Angeles, says it is “readying essential material aid — emergency, shelter and cleaning supplies” to help Oklahoma’s community health organizations and schools recover.
You can donate online here. You can also give a $10 donation by texting the word AID to 50555. Checks should be sent to: Operation USA, 7421 Beverly Blvd., PH, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Convoy of Hope
The Missouri-based nonprofit organization has done work in other disasters, including the Haiti earthquake, with a mission of getting food and water to those after disaster strikes. Now it’s doing the same for Moore, Okla. You can donate online here. Convoy of Hope is also going the crowd-sourced route, using HopeMob, a site similar to Kickstarter but for raising money to help disaster victims and others in need, which charges no fees to the organizations that use it. Convoy of Hope’s goal on the site is to raise $15,000 in seven days to help Moore.
“Why 7 days? In these first 7 days the town of Moore, OK will be consumed with clearing out destruction and accessing their needs,” HopeMob says on its site. “Once those needs are known we want to be able to give them the funds to help them rebuild in the long term.”
As of Tuesday, nearly $9,500 was raised.
The Santa Barbara, Calif.-based, non-profit organization provides medical assistance and personal hygiene items to those hurt in disasters, as well as in other circumstances.
“So far we have heard from health center partners responding in Oklahoma and are preparing an emergency shipment to help support the efforts there. Direct Relief has been receiving requests for emergency supplies, personal care and protection items — including hygiene supplies, infection control products, gloves, soap, shampoo, deodorant, sanitary napkins, diapers, wipes and formula,” said Kerri Murray, Direct Relief vice president, in an email.
To donate, visit DirectRelief.org.
DonorsChoose.org is creating a special online fund to collect donations for the teachers and schools of Moore, Okla., to help respond and rebuild. Donors Choose will work with the teachers of Moore to assess what they need for their classrooms and allow them to identify the real-time solutions and supplies their community and their students need: everything from clothing for their students to first-aid kits.
To donate, visit www.donorschoose.org
A note of caution
Emotions are running high, understandably, in light of the awful news from Oklahoma. Many of us want to help in some way. But this vulnerable time is also ripe for scammers who want to prey on your emotions and wallet. They may seek you out via email, knock on your door, or even try to get you to give money via Facebook.
The Federal Trade Commission has guidelines about charity donations, including these tips:
Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events, like the bombing.
Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer — or if you don’t like the answer you get — consider donating to a different organization.
Don’t give out personal or financial information — including your credit card or bank account number — unless you know the charity is reputable.
Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.
*NBC News contributed to this report
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Source: Santa Clarita News