Extension staff, 4-H clubs helping Oklahoma tornado residents

LITTLE ROCK — A pair of donated 18-wheelers and a converted “chicken trailer” are part of the Extension of Hope disaster relief effort being carried out by employees of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and 4-H clubs for the city of Moore, Okla.

“Like most Arkansans we wanted to help in any way we could,” Tony Windham, director of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, said on Thursday. “With our Extension of Hope shipments, we hope to make a difference for those whose lives have been torn apart.

“By working with our Extension colleagues in Oklahoma, we were able to focus our donations to do the most good for those helping repair the damage from the deadly storms this week,” he said. “We hope to continue our efforts in the coming weeks to help when the initial outpouring of aid begins to taper.”

In Cross County, 4-H members were putting their heads, hearts and hands to work, collecting supplies on Thursday afternoon at the extension office in the county courthouse.

“We’re collecting supplies including bottled water, paper towel, toiletries and other cleanup supplies,” said Rick Wimberley, Cross County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “A local trucking company has donated the use of an 18-wheeler including a driver and diesel, to take supplies to Oklahoma.”

The truck was to leave Wynne on Friday morning and make a stop at Little Rock if there was room to pick up additional supplies.

Memorial Day omelets

Extension instructor Scharidi Barber is planning to spend her Memorial Day weekend driving supplies to Moore. Her inspirations for the trip are both personal and professional.

Barber, who teaches youth about poultry, is converting the trailer affectionately known as the “chicken trailer,” into a vehicle of hope. The Cooperative Extension Service is donating the truck to haul the supplies — including toiletries, cleanup supplies and sports drinks.

“I have a really good friend who lives in Moore,” she said, “and we work with Oklahoma Extension and kids from both states compete at the Arkansas-Oklahoma state fair. I got with one of the agents there to see what we could do. We’re neighbor states and we have to help with what we can.”

Barber will be accompanied by Leigh Helms, Faulkner County extension agent, who helped coordinate 4-H efforts to clean up and provide relief after the deadly Vilonia tornado in 2011, and Barber’s mother, Melissa Hale. In addition to distributing supplies, all three will spend Memorial Day morning cooking and serving omelets to relief workers, something Barber and Helms did in 2011. Hale, of Springdale, was collecting donated food for the breakfast.

More deliveries

In southwest Arkansas, 4-H clubs in multiple counties are collecting for Moore with a June 1 delivery scheduled.

“Melissa Beck, staff chair in Nevada County is heading up the effort and Rex Herring, staff chair in Sevier County has secured use of an 18-wheeler from DeWayne Morris, a feed store owner in Polk, Sevier and McCurtain (Okla.) counties,” said Carla Vaught, extension staff chair in Polk County.

A posting to the Polk County 4-H Facebook said that “Every little bit will be a blessing to someone.”

May 30 is the deadline to drop off items for this SW Arkansas collection between 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekdays at:

* Nevada County Extension Office, 532 West First South, Prescott.

* Howard County Extension Office, 421 North Main Nashville.

* Sevier County Extension Office, 183 College Drive, Agri Building Room 600, De Queen.

* Polk County Extension Office, 211 De Queen Street, Mena.

In south Arkansas, Ashley County’s 4-Hers are taking relief items at the extension office at the Ashley County Courthouse Annex on week days from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., until May 30. The office is located at 205 East Jefferson in Hamburg.

“We are working with some community members who will be driving the items to a church in Moore, Okla., for distribution,” said Diane Mashburn, Ashley County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The collected items will hit the road May 31.

In northern Arkansas, “our Boone County 4-H Teen Leaders have made the rounds to the radio station, newspaper, and businesses today,” Nita Cooper, Boone County extension staff chair said Thursday. “The kids have already collected close to 200 items in less than 24 hours. Way to go 4-Hers!”

Boone County’s collected items will ride along with the 4-H collection in southwest Arkansas.

For more information about disaster recovery, visit extension’s Web site, www.uaex.edu, or contact your county extension agent.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Mary Hightower is an Extension communications specialist at the U of A Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.