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Smith County Red Cross sends volunteers to help tornado victims


POSTED: Monday, April 28, 2014 - 4:08pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 8:48am

The American Red Cross Smith County chapter is sending crews to help victims of the Arkansas tornado.

A half-mile wide tornado ripped through parts of the Plains, Midwest and South. The American Red Cross Smith County chapter knew they needed to deploy people to Little Rock, Arkansas right away.

"No matter how powerful mother nature is, human nature to help is that much more powerful," said Exec. Director of American Red Cross Smith County chapter Tammy Prater.

"They'll go to pick up supplies and begin pushing material out into the neighborhoods and communities where it's needed," said Prater.

They're going to report to Little Rock and from there be sent where they're needed.

"We knew very quickly that the reports coming in were bad, so again Red Cross on the ground in Arkansas knew very quickly that they were going to need our help."

Gary Garsee is one of the volunteers heading out.

"Most of my life, I've been helping people, so it's just second nature to reach out and try to make a difference," said Garsee.

He's helped the tornado victims in Granbury and also McKinney.

"We will be going to the affected areas handing out water, Gatorade, snacks, tarps, shovels, rakes, gloves," said Garsee.

Garsee said it's challenging to see what these people have gone through, but it's rewarding to be able to help them.

"When you go into the shelter centers and they're long lines, people waiting to be talked to and helped and to get supplies, it's heartbreaking."

Christy Stennis-Ball has been with the American Red Cross for 50 years.

She will be taking care of the American Red Cross staff when they're on the job.

"I believe I am my brothers keeper. Therefore, this is a gift I could give out and it can come back to me," said Stennis-Ball.

The crew they sent Monday afternoon will do a lot of preliminary damage assessment to see what's needed and how many more people they need to send.

They have a team taking the emergency vehicle out and others on standby. These helpers, in fact 95% of those who work for American Red Cross, are volunteers. Everyday they're preparing, stocking up on supplies and making sure volunteers are ready to respond.

Stennis-Ball said her bags are already packed, so at a moments notice when they need her, she's ready to go.

"You really don't see or feel the impact (of helping) until you get home. The priority is putting your emotions and feelings aside and making sure we do everything to take care of those people," said Stennis-Ball.

They said since lives were lost during this storm, it's going to be a pretty difficult journey.

"The families affected, this is the most devastating thing they've ever dealt with and I don't know beyond that how you could quantify or qualify a disaster. It is a tragedy for the families involved and unfortunately with this set of storms, there has been loss of lives which makes it so much worse. There are people and loved ones lost that cant be replaced," said Prater.

To make a donation visit www. or dial 1-800-Red Cross or text 90999.

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