Area Red Cross volunteers travel to Okla., to help with tornado recovery

MOORE, Okla., — Red Cross responders are often the first on the scene after natural disasters.

The powerful tornado that hit Moore, Okla., two weeks ago was no exception.

Three volunteers from the La Crosse area deployed within days of the disaster.

They said helping those in the time they need it most is just something they needed to do.

“It’s so surreal,” said Jane Ramey, a Red Cross volunteer from Black River Falls.

It’s still hard for Ramey to comprehend the endless miles of rubble in Moore Okla.

“This is — yeah, this is incredible,” said Ramey.

She has spent her first couple of days walking around neighborhoods there helping victims with food, clothing and temporary housing.

“We interviewed maybe seven or eight that didn’t have any home at all,” said Ramey.

Out of about a dozen deployments in the past seven years, she said the devastation in Moore is by far the worst, knowing seven children died in the piles of debris that was once Plaza Towers Elementary School.


“I did lose a child,” said Ramey. “He was 33, but he was still my child, so I know what they feel like, which makes it easier for me, but harder for me to know what these parents are going through when their child is much younger.”

Just when volunteers started to make a small dent in the recovery process, a second round of severe weather slammed the surrounding metro area.

The National Weather Service reported five tornadoes last Friday night.

That includes one of the widest tornadoes ever recorded, killing 19 people in El Reno, a city about 40 minutes from Moore.

Shirley Stinson, of La Crosse, and Laurie DeFlorian, of Coon Valley, worked through the night preparing to help the people in that area.

“At midnight, we got a phone call saying that we need to start a mass care shelter,” said Stinson. “I have been going on about 29, 29.5 hours of straight working.”

By morning, more and more victims started trickling in.

Red Cross volunteers used donations from communities across the nation, including the Coulee region, to supply medical goods, cots, blankets, pillows, food and clothes.

“It goes to supplies to stock the shelter for food and water,” said DeFlorian. “Whatever people need.”

This is just the beginning of many long days and months to come, but DeFlorian says it’s worth it.

“I can’t say no,” said DeFlorian. “I don’t want to say no, because there’s people that need help.”

The volunteers said helping others in their greatest time of need isn’t something they have to do. It’s something they want to do.

“The feelings are genuine, and I just hate when bad things happen to people, but when they do, [it feels good] to be able to give that support,” said Ramey. “So it’s a real part of my life.”

Red Cross volunteers are usually deployed for about two weeks at a time. The volunteers from the La Crosse community said they may have to extend their stay, especially since the surrounding communities are now recovering from that second round of severe weather that hit recently.

To make a donation to the Red Cross call 1-800-RED CROSS, visit REDCROSS.ORG or text RED CROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.