KANSAS CITY, Mo — Local, state and federal officials are warning Hurricane Ida may cause catastrophic damage to everything in its path. Thousands of people are evacuating their homes or sheltering in place as they brace for the Category 4 tropical cyclone.
Local organizations in the Kansas City-area are finding ways to contribute their relief efforts, from providing aid to feeding the hungry.
“We left on Monday, set up and started doing meals on Tuesday, and we were able to serve just over 10,000 meals this week,” said co-founder of Operation BBQ Relief Will Cleaver.
Cleaver and his volunteer team have been following closely behind Hurricane Ida and its path. Equipment is currently en route from Memphis and additional supplies will be sent from the organization’s warehouse in Dallas.
They have already been feeding people in Waverly, Tennessee, this week after flooding took over their streets.
“If we can be there to listen and provide a meal, and help the community, I'll do it every day of the week — twice on Sunday,” Cleaver said.
Operation BBQ Relief will hit the road again Sunday night and head to Texarkana, Texas. From there, they will monitor the storm and find a safe path to Louisiana by Tuesday.
Cleaver says they currently have 25-30 volunteers signed up to help, in addition to 15 core members on staff. They will be stationed about 5 hours out from the aftermath of the storm and provide up to 30,000 meals and homebase for displaced families.
“You’ll see multiple families coming together and sharing a meal. And there's something about breaking that bread together as a community that’s like, ‘You’ll get through this,’ and that you’re not in it alone,” Cleaver said.
The organization’s biggest worry is making sure they have enough volunteers on site. For anyone interested in giving their time, apply on their website. Cleaver and his team are looking to recruit 75-100 people for the effort.
As many mark the 16-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, responders with The American Red Cross know just how much more is at stake.
“It has to weigh on people. It weighs on some of us as responders who were involved in any portion of the Katrina response as well,” said JoAnn Woody with The American Red Cross Greater Kansas City Chapter.
Woody arrived in Baton Rouge Saturday afternoon and about a dozen more volunteers will be joining her soon from Kansas City.
“Yesterday was a massive effort on everyone's part — getting supplies in place, getting people in place," Woody said. "We had people coming in from all over the country.”
She says the priority right now is working with state partners to make sure shelters are readily available. COVID-19 concerns are at the forefront this time.
“So we’re asking everyone to mask and follow all those safety protocols. So that requires more space for shelter. It requires more space to do anything,” Woody said. “We’re being very cognizant of being, you know, protecting ourselves and those that we’re with.”
Woody says for anyone who wants to offer assistance, they should reach out to local organizations in their area first. This ensures money or donations end up in the right place.
Another great way to help is by donating blood. Large-scale emergencies like this always call for additional donors.