Updated 1:03 p.m. May 14 with info on need for volunteers at May 21 event. See bottom of post.
Eldon Fossey, Scoutmaster of Troop 75 in Moore, Okla., was at work when the deadly tornadoes passed through yesterday, killing at least 24 and leaving horrific damage.
As soon as they got the all-clear, Eldon’s boss told everyone to leave. It took Eldon two hours to make the seven-mile drive home.
Thankfully, his house was three-quarters of a mile north of the tornado’s path. Other people in his life weren’t so lucky. A Scout in Eldon’s troop and Eldon’s brother-in-law had their houses completely leveled. When I talked to Eldon, he was on his way to his mother-in-law’s house, which was still standing but no longer structurally sound.
Understandably, Eldon had little to report as he focuses on helping his immediate family. But, thankfully, he didn’t know of any deaths in his 50-member troop.
“I have put the word out to our troop and let everyone know where we stand,” he said. “I told my troop that as soon as cops allow them back into the neighborhood, I told them to do as much as they can to help. Once we’re able, we need to help.”
That same message was echoed by Jeff Woolsey, Scout Executive of the Oklahoma City-based Last Frontier Council. He called me right as he was about to step into a meeting to discuss what the council can do to help.
Right now, they’re in the information-gathering stage.
“We’re very concerned and trying to get as much communication as we can,” he said. “We’re all praying for them, becase the magnitude of this disaster is huge.”
But Woolsey knows the resolve of his community — and his state — is strong.
“Oklahomans have been through this many times, and they know the drill,” he said. “So we’ll be organizing very quickly.”
Woolsey and his council have contacted United Way and other partner agencies that respond to these kinds of crises to tell them, “We’re standing by. We’re ready,” he said, “as we have been with disasters in the past to mobilize Scouts and moms and dads to help where we can.”
At this early stage, Woolsey said, the key is to stay out of the way and let first responders do their jobs. In the meantime, Woolsey has a point person, a key volunteer, in charge of relief efforts. When it’s safe to do so, that point person will lead the Scouts and Scouters into action.
But what about people who aren’t able to drive to the disaster site to help? Woolsey suggests they give to the groups that are already helping people.
“Folks outside of the area can help best by giving to American Red Cross and to the Salvation Army — the local ones here if they can,” he said. “Those are the agencies that are right now on the ground helping. And they do a very good job very quickly.”
“And of course we appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers,” he said.
I’ll keep you updated on this developing story as I learn new details.
Volunteers needed May 21
Update | 1:03 p.m., May 14
Just received word from the Last Frontier Council that they’re looking for volunteers to help move supplies and equipment in the afternoon on Tuesday, May 21. Here are the details:
Troop 180 & St. Andrews United Methodist Church
American Red Cross Shelter
2727 SW 119th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73170
Volunteers are needed to unload and move supplies and equipment. A large trailer from AutoZone will be delivering supplies in the afternoon of May 21.
All sorts of useful items may be donated: food, bottled water, clothing and toiletries are needed. Scouting volunteers are encouraged to wear the BSA uniform or a BSA shirt.
Main photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by The National Guard