East Tennessee volunteers lend a helping hand to Oklahomans

East Tennessee volunteers lend a helping hand to Oklahomans

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A Knoxville volunteer departs for Oklahoma Tuesday morning. A Knoxville volunteer departs for Oklahoma Tuesday morning.
"One of the easiest ways is to text the word REDCROSS to 90999 or they can go online at redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS," said Red Cross' Stan Gibert. "One of the easiest ways is to text the word REDCROSS to 90999 or they can go online at redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS," said Red Cross' Stan Gibert.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - As the search for survivors continues in Oklahoma hundreds of volunteers from across country are stepping into help, including some from East Tennessee.

The storm is already being called one of the most destructive tornadoes in U.S. history. First responders and volunteers continued to comb through the wreckage in search of survivors Tuesday morning.

Twenty-five Red Cross teams from East Tennessee left early Tuesday morning to join in the relief efforts.

"So far they have called for two of our east Tennessee Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV) - the one in northeast Tennessee and the one in southeast Tennessee - and with each one of those, there are two volunteers who are on the way," said Stan Gibert with the Knoxville Red Cross.

One of those volunteers is from right here in Knoxville. He left around 7 a.m. to join the emergency response vehicle leaving from the Chattanooga chapter.

As other teams prepare to deploy, people at home can help as well. The Red Cross says the best way to help is through financial donations.

"One of the easiest ways is to text the word REDCROSS to 90999 or they can go online at redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS," said Gibert.

When you make a donation, the Red Cross encourages you to download its new Tornado App.

It just launched this season for iPhone and Android phones. It's designed to help prepare you and your family should you ever find yourselves caught in a destructive tornado.

The app not only alerts you to an approaching storm, it also comes loaded with several other features to help you before and after a storm.

"It has an 'I'm safe' feature where anyone once they are safe can just hit a button and people who they have preloaded through their social networks can get an instant message simply saying I'm safe," said Gibert.

It will also direct you to the nearest storm shelter and should you get trapped it will also send out a signal showing where you are. officials say it can be a big help during what can be a very challenging task.

The Red Cross has seen a spike in tornado app downloads over the last week. So far 270,000 people have downloaded the app. Its free on iTunes and Google Play.

Other organizations are also getting ready to help those in Oklahoma.

At Cokesbury Methodist Church on Kingston Pike several disaster relief trailers are ready to go.

"We on standby and by that we have our trailers ready in the event they were would call us," said Holston Conference Disaster Response Coordinator James Fetzer.

The Knox County Association of Baptists also have disaster trailers ready in case their volunteers are needed.

Both churches say right now they do not need any physical donations.

"With any organization, monetary donations are always the first preference, especially right in the beginning," said Knox County Association of Baptists Ministry Assistant Karen Chesney.

"I think people have the tendency to respond with clothing and water and food and those type of things, but the reality of the logistics of getting those to Oklahoma is difficult, so the best thing to do is provide monetary donations," said Salvation Army area commander Major Albert Villafuerte

The local Salvation Army is also waiting to see if they are needed in Oklahoma.
  
"I'm sure they will be calling on us for assistance," said Major Villafuerte.

WATE Reporters DREW GARDNER and JOSH AULT contributed to this report.


Ways to Help:

To help the Salvation Army, visit their website, call 1-800-SAL-ARMY or text "STORM" to 80888 to make a $10 donation.

To help the North American Mission Board, visit their website, call 1-866-407-6262 or mail a check with the designation "Disaster Relief" to:

North American Mission Board
P.O. Box 116543
Atlanta, GA 30368

or to:

Knox County Association
Disaster Relief
P.O. Box 11028
Knoxville, TN 37939

The United Methodist Church is also taking donations for Oklahoma tornado victims. You can visit their website to make a direct donation.

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