Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Volunteer coordinator helps in aftermath of tornadoes

Jenny shot this amazing photo.

Tulsa Salvation Army staffer plays critical role in recovery

When Volunteer Coordinator Jenny McElyea taught her most recent disaster training class, she had no idea that within a few weeks she would be working in her first disaster, much less recruiting and processing hundreds of volunteers in the aftermath of tornadoes. When she arrived in Oklahoma City on May 31st, she also had no idea that by 1 a.m. she’d be sitting in the stairwell of the Arkansas Oklahoma Salvation Army Headquarters, waiting out tornadoes in El Reno.

“Factors are changing constantly. There’s change at a moment’s notice. You have to be willing and be flexible,” Jenny said recently. As soon as she arrived in OKC, she was named as Incident Command Volunteer Coordinator. “Originally they thought they’d have to find someone from out of state to take the position,” she said. “So they were glad to find me. I was honored to be chosen.”
Jenny is on the far right in this photo from Incident Command.

Although volunteers were plentiful immediately after the May 20 tornado in Moore, by the time Jenny arrived, interest in volunteering was waning, especially interest in volunteering during working hours. So she put out the word by utilizing special website for people to sign up and using social media.

The largest site she was responsible for filling with volunteers was the old JCPenney at the Plaza de Mayor Mall, where donated items such as bottled water and cleaning supplies were collected. Volunteers sorted the donated goods and helped tornado victims “shop” the aisles for items they could use.

Jenny also found volunteers for MARCS, Multi Agency Resource Centers, where volunteers and social works helped tornado victims fill out the necessary paperwork to apply for aid. And when the combination of on line and social media volunteer recruitment didn’t seem to be enough to get those workday volunteers, Jenny turned to old fashioned techniques, ones that were in abundance during the tornadoes and the aftermath.

“I prayed and I cried,” she said.
By all accounts, Jenny’s first disaster experience was a success.


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