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May 23, 2013 8:57 PM by Andy Koen

Impromptu volunteer becomes leader of movement

MOORE, OKLAHOMA -When Ben Hill and his friends arrived at the disaster area in Moore Tuesday they quickly put themselves to work cleaning yards of broken tree branches and storm debris.

The small group soon recognized the magnitude of the devastation was much greater than they'd imagined and decided they needed help.

They happened to be working near the church gymnasium of Covenant Life Assembly when the pastor of the church came by and asked them if they wanted to use the space.

They said yes and Ben gave out his email address and cell phone number to his church in Oklahoma City hoping a few dozen volunteers might offer to help.

He realized later, when his cell phone wouldn't stop ringing, that his contact information had being shared on websites and social media everywhere.

By Wednesday morning, 1,000 volunteers met him at the church gym. Another 2,000 showed up to help throughout the day.  Many came from the Oklahoma City metro area, but some traveled from as far as Las Vegas and Maryland.

The City of Moore issued Ben a credential and the Red Cross is now directing their volunteers to him. Ben says he appreciates the support but wants to get the word out that cleaning up here takes commitment.

"Human nature is to jump right in, work for two hours, do as much as you can and then go back to normal," Hill said. "We need several people to jump right in and work for two hours and then work for four hours, then work for six hours and then we need them to come back next week and do that and the week after that."

The job of feeding volunteers and the hundreds of displaced families has been the primary focus of a group of people wearing yellow shirts. They call themselves Disaster Relief Oklahoma and are an outreach of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

The group has a network of 5,000 volunteers nationwide who travel to disaster areas ready to serve up a warm meal, wash dishes or help in another other way they can.  Many volunteers with organization traveled to Colorado Springs last summer to serve families evacuated by the Waldo Canyon Fire.

 

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