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West Michigan relief volunteers ready to deploy if needed

6:57 AM, May 22, 2013   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Whenever a disaster on the level of the Oklahoma tornado happens, West Michigan always seems to step up its volunteer efforts.

The Red Cross, Salvation Army, and many other non-profit organizations like churches, combine to help make West Michigan one of the nation's volunteer bases for disaster relief.

Since the Oklahoma tornado outbreak Monday afternoon, West Michigan non-profit organizations, like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been hard at work recruiting volunteers in case they're asked to join the relief efforts.

  • You can text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to the Oklahoma relief

"When our fellow man is out there hurting, without a home, without food, and needs to be comforted, I think we all have that in us to go out there and help," said Roy Powers, who has served as a Red Cross volunteer for the past eight years.

Powers is a veteran volunteer, having worked relief for Hurricane Katrina, the San Diego wildfires, and most recently Hurricane Sandy.

When help is needed, for both state and national disasters, Powers says West Michigan isn't shy about volunteering. "It's been my experience that Grand Rapids and this region is probably one of the strongest spots in the United States as far as volunteerism in general," added Powers.

The same holds true for the Salvation Army.

"We have already been notified and we have people on standby to head down [to Oklahoma]," said Chris Striebel, who serves as the assistant director of divisional emergency disaster services of Kent County.

Striebel has been on the job for five years. During that time, he worked relief in Joplin, Missouri after the devastating tornado there in 2011.

"Only a handful of times in my experience for disasters have I seen destruction like that in Oklahoma," said Striebel. "[The Oklahoma tornado] is every bit as much like Joplin."

Before any West Michigan volunteers are deployed, a certain protocol must be followed.

"The Red Cross workers who are in Oklahoma are assessing the needs they have right now, and they will decide who needs to be deployed based on the needs that they have," said Kelly Hudson, the Red Cross regional communications officer.

As for Roy Powers, he's ready to hear for Moore, Oklahoma whenever the call comes, and says he sees no end to his volunteer work.

"I'll be turning 69 next month," said Powers. "I don't know how long I will continue to do it but my intent is to continue helping when needed."

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