Teams help in rescue and recovery efforts as groups collect donations
Five Denton Fire Department employees left Monday evening for Moore, Okla., to help in the recovery effort after a tornado destroyed much of the city.
Locally, many groups are collecting money and supplies for the victims.
Kenneth Hedges, fire department spokesman, said the five employees are members of Texas Task Force 1.
The task force is made up of technical and canine search components along with heavy-rescue personnel and equipment to assist in the search-and-rescue operations.
The 80-member team will work with Oklahoma officials as long as necessary, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Hedges was waiting to hear from the Denton members Tuesday afternoon.
“I assume they are still pretty active in the search process,” he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VI dispatched 60 people to Oklahoma to support the recovery efforts.
Stephanie Moffett, a FEMA spokeswoman, said the agency had a response team in Oklahoma by 11 p.m. Monday. Officials said team members are assisting local emergency services with life-sustaining and life-saving efforts until the situation is under control.
FEMA officials said the agency currently is at Level I of its emergency response, which is the highest level. Level I refers to a disaster that has major damage and requires full staffing response.
The last time the region was in Level I was during Hurricane Issac in September 2012, Moffett said.
Other Denton County officials remain on standby.
Jody Gonzalez, Denton County emergency management coordinator, said Oklahoma officials requested a roster of personnel who could be deployed, but the personnel had not been asked to come.
Denton Municipal Electric officials also don’t anticipate being asked to help because the electric utility in Moore is investor owned and not a municipal utility.
“Generally, mutual-aid agreements with municipally owned utilities are with other municipally owned utilities,” spokesman Brian Daskam said, adding that if DME is asked, a crew would go.
The Denton Kiwanis Club is serving as the donation drop-off point for disaster relief supplies and monetary donations being collected by Kiwanis clubs across Texas and Oklahoma. The local club is collecting donations for tornado victims via its website — www.dentonkiwanisclub.org — said Robin Meyer, the local chapter’s executive secretary.
Large plastic tubs filled with bandages, socks, toothpaste, towels, blankets and other items covered the conference room table at the Denton Kiwanis Club office on Elm Street on Wednesday.
Meyer said the club is filling backpacks — for infants through adults according to gender and age — with items such as toiletries, crayons, coloring books, notepads and medical packs.
Two hundred backpacks will be delivered to Kiwanis members in Oklahoma City on Friday. The backpacks will be distributed to residents in Prague, Shawnee and Moore, Meyer said.
Last week, 170 relief backpacks were distributed to people in shelters in Granbury and Cleburne in Texas, she said.
Hours after the tornado struck Moore on Monday, Meyer said, the Denton Kiwanis Club set up an online account for people to donate to disaster relief efforts. In less than 18 hours, the club raised $2,000 through the account, she said. Combined with donations received from other Kiwanis clubs, a total of $5,000 had been raised by Tuesday afternoon.
“The response, to me, has been absolutely overwhelming,” Meyer said. “It has been absolutely amazing how much people have contributed and it’s not small amounts either.”
She said the Kiwanis Texas Oklahoma District has applied for a $5,000 children’s disaster relief grant from the Kiwanis International Foundation and should know whether it will receive the grant within the next couple of days. If awarded, Meyer said the money will be used to purchase 500 additional relief backpacks.
The American Legion Post 550 in Pilot Point is also accepting donations for Moore.
Residents are invited to bring clothing, bedding, toiletries, toys, canned food, bottled water and baby items. A jar for cash donations will be available.
The post will have a fundraiser at 1 p.m. Monday. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and watermelon will be served and donations for Moore will be accepted.
The post is at 905 N. Foundation Drive and opens at noon daily. For more information, call 940-686-9901.
Jimmy Tritt, owner of JT Clothiers, said Monday his store would have a clothing drive.
People can bring clean used clothing today to the store at 2430 Interstate 35E, Suite 130. The clothes will be delivered to shelters in and near Moore, he said. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On Tuesday, Emilio Gonzalez, a board member of the nonprofit group Serve Denton, collected items such as Rubbermaid tubs, water, baby wipes, work gloves, energy bars, clothing, blankets and canned goods for the relief effort.
Staff writers Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, John D. Harden, Karina Ramirez and Matthew Zabel contributed to this report.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.