Sunday, April 11, 1999

Volunteers offer goods, hands, time

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cpl. Scott Barger of the Hamilton County SPCA searches a Sycamore Township home for a missing cat and three kittens. He could not find them.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        From donated goods to donated time, help has been pouring forth for families who had their lives shattered early Friday morning.

        Cincinnati Bell is letting tornado victims use cell phones.

        Skyline oyster crackers, McDonald's barbecue sauce, Arby's horseradish sauce, Bigg's soda, bags of premixed salad, boxes of grapefruit and baby food filled the kitchen at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Sycamore Township. All the food was donated to the temporary shelter.

        Volunteers are pouring in, too. People with chain saws are helping cut trees. Students are helping dig through bricks and insulation to throw them in trash bins. They're salvaging any personal belongings they can for the families they've never met.

        Volunteers with computer skills compile databases of victims. Others are out in the kitchen. Church volunteers are even there to vacuum floors in the shelter.

        “We were the lucky ones,” Maria Devita said as she placed a stack of white paper plates on a table at the shelter. “We live on Gideon Lane, which was hard hit. We didn't even have a branch down in the yard. We almost feel guilty.”

        Mrs. Devita and her husband, Gregg, were in Ontario at 5 a.m. Saturday. They heard about the tornado and drove back to Cincinnati. When they saw their house was unscathed, the couple went to the shelter to donate their services.

        “We'll stay until late tonight and be here early tomorrow,” she said.

        The Red Cross had more than 200 volunteers on Friday. Another 190 were at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy the to help Saturday. Charlotte Poltarec was among them.

        “I figured I could add some tech support,” said the Union Township, Clermont County, woman who was entering victims' names and contact numbers into a computer spreadsheet.

Debbie Abernathy, left, of Landen and Cheryl Newbanks of Loveland hand out food and drink from a Red Cross vehicle on Fallsington Court in Blue Ash.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
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        So many volunteers have shown up that the Red Cross is asking people to call before they drive out to the Northeastern suburbs that were hardest hit, Red Cross spokeswoman Ashley Young said Saturday.

        “There's been an overwhelming number of volunteers,” she said. “People just want to help.”

        Red Cross workers are interviewing families to find out what kind of aid that they need. For now, the agency is accepting cash donations only. Dozens of Tristate businesses are collecting other items, from cleaning supplies to non-perishable food.

        On Saturday, though, volunteers focused on manual labor.

        Jon Coleman has been pitching in wherever he could, from shuttling volunteers to cleanup areas to shuttling food.

        “I had the time,” said Mr. Coleman, 27, of Columbia Township.

        A group of seven students from Miami University's Korean Martial Arts Society waded through a leveled home Saturday to salvage what they could and help clear debris.

        They rescued a hamster buried 6 feet down, still in its cage. They also found the homeowners' wedding picture.

        Miami freshman Katie Hanzie, 19, of Wadsworth, Ohio said: “All he kept saying was, "I don't know you, but thank you so much.'”



Pinpointing the damage in the Tristate
Homeowners sort out emotions, scattered memories
Where to donate, where to get help
Orphaned dog has broken pelvis, heart
Devoted pair died together
'When God calls, we must go'
Sirens not designed to penetrate buildings
Did you hear the sirens?
New home, owners spared
Utility crews, municipal workers out in force
- Volunteers offer goods, hands, time
Mother Nature's worst brings out the best in human nature
Church members shed tears, give thanks
Hoosiers pitch in to help neighbors
Insurance adjusters bring checks, reassuring words
Warren County took blow, too
One year later, Alabama tornado victims still rebuilding
Coping with the storm
Coping with the storm: Returning to your home