OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- It's a cliche - a heart-warming cliche - but it's true. Disaster can bring out the best in people.
More than 3,000 volunteers have already funneled through a volunteer command center here to help after the May 3 tornadoes, and more arrive daily. The command center is run by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which is coordinating all volunteer Oklahoma relief efforts.
Volunteers have streamed in from all over the country -- Virginia, California, New York, New Mexico and many other states. Through UMCOR, they are routed to places where they can do the most good.
On Monday, more than 75 workers were routed to help in Bridge Creek and East Lake Patio and in a food bank in Oklahoma City.
Other crews of helpers have fanned out to Crescent, Mulhall, Guthrie, Moore, Midwest City and Del City.
More than 1,000 volunteers went to Bridge Creek to clean up debris, cut trees, sort donations and cook meals.
The command center does not oversee all the massive disaster relief efforts being put forth by many church denominations, including Baptists, Presbyterians, the Mormons, the St. Vincent de Paul Society (Roman Catholic), Methodists and others.
UMCOR's role is to match needs and means. If a homeowner or a community needs help, they can call UMCOR at 405-895-7430, or at a toll-free number, 800-531-7808. The command center staff keep tabs on jobs that need to be done and workers available. They make the appropriate match and dispatch volunteers - anywhere from one to a thousand people - to do the job.
When a volunteer group finds it needs more help, or has volunteers looking for more jobs, a call goes in to the command center and another match is made.
"Even with the thousands who have helped already, we can always find work for more volunteers," said Kim Pease of UMCOR.
People needing help, churches or individual volunteers can call the center at 405-895-7430 or 800-531-7808, to offer their services or get assistance.
The center has already had a hand in job after job:
- 50 volunteers cleaned up and repainted apartments owned by the Trinity Foundation that will be available to tornado victims.
- Other helpers moved senior citizens out of condemned apartments.
- A Tulsa truck driver and his family arrived with a chain saw, a healthy work ethic - and dessert snacks for the other volunteers.
- A young Texas family drove 10 hours to help, bringing a truckload of rakes, shovels, dust masks, insect spray, gloves, fence posts, barbed wire and other supplies.
- A group of 12 ministerial students arrived all the way from Houston to lend a hand.
"Oklahoma's tornado victims have a long road to travel to recovery. But they will have a lot of company and a lot of help along the way. Calling UMCOR is one way to get that help," Pease said.