Tornado Survivor Website Offers Donation, Volunteering Info

The website is the public-facing portal to put the entire community’s recovery effort on the same page, said John Pyron, director of disaster response for Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio.

by Chris Stewart, Dayton Daily News, Ohio / July 28, 2019

(TNS) — A new website, MVStrong.org, will allow tornado survivors to more easily find assistance and give those who want to help a faster way to identify volunteer opportunities or donate to relief efforts.

“In terms of getting help, there are a lot of resources out there … But it’s not all in one place,” said Laura Mercer, who helped develop the site. “We are trying to consolidate it there through active links to those sites so people can go to one site to get information on how to get help.”

The website is the public-facing portal to put the entire community’s recovery effort on the same page, said John Pyron, who is also working on the recovery effort and is director of disaster response for Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio.

“One of the challenges is that so many different people are doing so many different things,” Pyron said. “But having that centralized coordination point is going to help solve a lot of that.”

Both Pyron and Mercer, Sinclair Community College Centerville Campus executive director, are part of the Miami Valley Long-Term Recovery Operations Group. MVStrong.org will also be the vehicle through which the recovery group communicates with the public, they said.

The collaboration of more than a dozen nonprofits, educational institutions and emergency management officials coalesced after a record 15 tornadoes hit southwest Ohio on Memorial Day, including four that damaged Montgomery County. The most destructive, rated an EF4 by the National Weather Service, tore a broad swath from Brookville to Riverside. A preliminary assessment shows more than 2,200 structures in the county were made uninhabitable.

Where and how to donate material goods is explained on the site, as well as how to donate to The Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Dayton Foundation.

But fresh volunteers are needed for recovery efforts and the website should boost recruitment, Mercer said.

“The core group of volunteers is getting pretty exhausted, so we need to augment them with other people,” Mercer said. “We know that there are people out there that want to help.”

MVStrong.org incorporates a sign-up genius that can track volunteer efforts and generate a roster so someone leading a cleanup or rebuilding effort knows “how many hands they have,” she said.

“One of the major issues we’re having right now is we need volunteers to be more engaged and people don’t know where to get information on how they can volunteer,” Mercer said.

Volunteer efforts range from debris removal to construction to assessing and screening people who need services. More rebuilding opportunities will emerge for volunteers within the next month or two, according to the group.

Mercer said a “a ton” of furniture deliveries is backed up because shifts are going unfilled by volunteers needed to assemble and transport furnishings to relocated tornado survivors.

“It’s a really rewarding experience to be able to help a family out,” she said. “They may have nothing in their new place and you are delivering beds and couches and dressers and tables and chairs.”

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©2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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