Our Opinion: Patience helps direct, extend disaster aid

In response to tragedy, patience can be difficult.

We appreciate the good intentions of people who want to assist tornado-devastated Joplin, but we are hearing reports of spontaneous volunteers arriving with supplies they cannot deliver amid the chaos.

Coordination, organization and patience are vital in the aftermath of destruction of the magnitude inflicted on Joplin and experienced to a lesser degree elsewhere in Missouri.

Beth Bauer, CEO of the Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, reminds everyone that search and rescue operations continue, communications have been damaged, and infrastructure and buildings have been destroyed.

She encourages people to visit the website www.aidmatrix.org/fema, to register as volunteers or describe the goods they have collected. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will direct people how to connect their contribution with people in need.

“It may be a month before some supplies can be brought in,” she explained, indicating that the rebuilding effort often extends beyond the days a disaster remains in the forefront of the news.

We echo that sentiment.

An immediate oversupply of goods and services results in much waste, in contrast to an orderly, long-term distribution that connects supplies to people in need.

The Red Cross — in coordination with federal and state emergency agencies — has established shelters and is issuing debit cards to tornado victims.

Monetary donations that can be added to those debit cards are the most effective assistance at this juncture, Bauer said. Financial contributions may be made: online at redcrosscapitalarea.org; in person at or by mail to the local office, 431 E. McCarty St., Jefferson City, MO, 65101; or by phoning 635-1132.

Although Joplin suffered a deadly storm, the episode apparently has reinforced our response to severe weather warnings.

Anecdotal evidence indicates area residents heeded Wednesday sirens with appropriate seriousness.

We commend the local businesses that provided shelter and the employees and customers who wisely stopped their activities and sought safety.

The propensity for severe weather in Missouri eliminates nonchalance as a viable option.

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